Researchers Raise Concern on Alcohol Promotion in Sports

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In a recent commentary published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, researchers from the Technological University of the Shannon and the University of Galway in the Republic of Ireland have raised concerns about the portrayal of alcohol consumption during major sporting events, calling for tighter regulation by broadcasters. 

The researchers, Dr. Frank Houghton and Daisy Houghton focused on the impact of alcohol-related imagery during sporting events, particularly the Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain. They argue that the prominent display of alcohol in crowd shots can normalize and glamorize alcohol consumption, especially among younger audiences, and detract from the overall success of such events. 

During the final match, the camera panned to a fan celebrating Spain’s goal while holding a cup of beer. This moment, according to the authors, exemplifies the issue they are addressing. They contend that showcasing alcohol consumption in a positive light without depicting its negative consequences can send misleading messages to viewers, particularly young girls. 

The authors emphasize the health risks associated with alcohol consumption, noting that it is a significant determinant of health for both men and women. They cite alcohol’s link to breast cancer, especially in women, as a concerning health issue. Given the established alcohol-related problems in the UK and Ireland, the authors argue that promoting alcohol during broadcasts is highly problematic. 

To address this issue, the researchers propose the development of an alcohol-oriented equivalent of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty aimed at controlling tobacco promotion and consumption. They believe that such an international agreement could help regulate alcohol promotion in the same way tobacco advertising is controlled. 

However, they acknowledge that media coverage of alcohol consumption during sporting events may not be directly covered by such international agreements, as it often falls into a gray area due to not being paid advertising. To address this, they suggest that contractual agreements between broadcasters and agencies filming sports events should include provisions to avoid focusing on alcohol in crowd shots.

Financial penalties for non-compliance could be implemented to ensure adherence to these agreements. The researchers propose that the implementation of such contractual rules should be relatively straightforward, especially for state-funded television channels. They also suggest that public health advocates may need to engage in further efforts to work with for-profit broadcasters to address this issue effectively. 

Dr. Frank Houghton and Daisy Houghton highlight their concerns about the portrayal of alcohol consumption during major sporting events and the potential harm it can cause, especially among young viewers. They call for tighter regulation by broadcasters, including the inclusion of provisions in contractual agreements to avoid focusing on alcohol in crowd shots. Ultimately, their aim is to mitigate the normalization and glamorization of alcohol consumption during sports broadcasts and promote public health awareness. 

Journal Reference  

Houghton F, Houghton D. The Women’s Soccer World Cup Final 2023: gender equity and alcohol promotion. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2023;0(0). doi:10.1177/01410768231202656 

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