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Athletes Call For Ban On Booze Ads In Sport

Don't mix alcohol advertisements with sport. That's the message from a group of Aussie athletes worried about the impact of promotions on young children who just want to see their sport stars in action.

"Kids are very impressionable," says former Parramatta rugby league player Steve Ella.

"If they are exposed to alcohol earlier in life they will start drinking earlier in life." Ella on Wednesday explained in detail sport's "toxic association with alcohol" and teamed up with other sporting names including AFL great Mick Malthouse to spread the word in Melbourne.

Their bid to ban alcohol advertising across all codes came as a Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education study found children were exposed to more than three alcohol ads during every minute of the recent NRL grand final.

Despite the exposure and the expansion of booze advertising into multiple platforms including social media, underage drinking is on the decline, Alcohol Beverages Australia executive director Fergus Taylor said.

"Alcohol advertising during sport is about influencing the brand choices of adults," he said, citing data showing the majority of audiences watching major sporting codes on TV are aged more than 18 years.

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But former NRL Melbourne Storm chairman Rob Moodie, now a University of Melbourne public health professor, said as a result of the advertising, children started talking and learning about alcohol which led to use at an early age.

"One of the problems at the moment, because of the agreements ... the kings of Australian sport - willingly or unwillingly ... have become the ambassadors of booze," he said.

It won't hurt sporting codes to drop sponsorship deals with alcohol, as had been done with tobacco, Prof Moodie added, calling for an end to industry self-regulation.

Former players from sports including NRL, AFL, cricket, hockey and athletics were part of the End Alcohol Advertising in Sport campaign launched in Melbourne.

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A spokesman for federal communications minister Mitch Fifield said independent media regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority had "ultimate responsibility" for overseeing the broadcasting industry codes.

"The rules relating to the scheduling of alcohol advertising are provided under a co-regulatory framework overseen by the independent media regulator, the ACMA," he said, adding the codes were regularly reviewed to ensure they met community standards.

AAP

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