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Alcohol, junk food, gambling youth sport sponsors

Thursday 20 April 2006

Alcohol, junk food, gambling dominate popular youth sports sponsorship

Sponsorship of the most popular sports for New Zealand boys and girls is dominated by alcohol, junk food and gambling, according to a new University of Otago pilot study.

Over one-third of sponsorship of the top sports played by 5 – 17 year olds is associated with products and activities classified as unhealthy, a survey undertaken by Wellington-based Otago medical student Anthony Maher has found. The “unhealthy” products associated with the sponsoring companies were alcohol, high fat, high sugar foods and gambling trusts.

The findings appear in the international journal BMC Public Health, in a study co-authored with public health researchers at the University’s Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Our study suggests that from the national level down to clubs, there is a concerning level of unhealthy sponsorship of popular sports. It’s more than twice as common as that coming from healthy sources, such as sporting goods businesses and sports organisations or health-promoting bodies,” says Mr Maher.

The research classified sponsorship of rugby, cricket, touch rugby, netball, athletics, tennis, basketball and soccer at the national and the Wellington regional and club levels, identifying 398 sponsor companies and organisations from sporting bodies’ web sites.

“In particular, we found significantly more alcohol-related sponsors for rugby compared to all the other sports put together, as well as significantly more unhealthy food sponsorship for touch rugby and for junior teams and clubs compared to other sports,” he says.

More research is needed to confirm the findings at local levels, but the study, which conservatively classified what constitutes “unhealthy” sponsorship, indicates that policymakers should start thinking about possible ways to tip the balance towards healthier sources of sponsorship, he says.

“No one would dispute that sponsorship is very important in supporting New Zealand sports at all levels. What is of concern is that currently so much of it is associated with unhealthy products and activities and the potential messages that this sends to young people.”

Possible solutions include restricting certain sponsorship as is already the case with tobacco, establishing “blind” sponsorship funds for the gambling industry, or extending sponsorship by health-promoting organisations, he says.

ENDS

The abstract of the article, with a link to the full PDF, can be found at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/6/95/abstract

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