There’s nothing more Australian than tucking into a meat pie while watching a game of AFL, but there are fresh calls for junk food advertisements to be banned for Aussie Rules matches.
According to the Cancer Council Victoria, Australian children are being bombarded with junk food and sugary drink branding on TV when they watch the national game at home. In fact, the 2017 AFL Grand Final saw 452 junk food brand appearances during the televised game, with viewers subjected to 36 minutes’ worth of unhealthy food advertising.
The results of the research also found that at least one junk food brand was visible for 25 per cent of the entire match, which was the highest rating program for children under 15 last year. In addition, an estimated 322,000 children across Australia’s major cities tuned in to watch the match – enough to fill the MCG three times over.
There are now fears that unhealthy food brands being associated with healthy and family-oriented sports is misleading.
“Our research found that unhealthy food and drink sponsorship accounted for more airtime during the 2017 AFL Grand Final than alcohol and gambling sponsorship combined,” lead researcher from Cancer Council Victoria Helen Dixon said in a statement. “The amount of unhealthy food and drink marketing was highest during the second quarter of the game, just before footy fans were looking for their half time snack.”
Furthermore, heavy marketing of energy-dense, nutrient-poor food and drinks is a known contributor to obesity and poor diets, with Dixon adding that children are particularly susceptible.
Her calls were echoed by the Obesity Policy Coalition, which also hit out at the AFL and junk food branding during games.
“The AFL is missing the mark by saturating a game that’s popular with Australian kids with junk food brands,” Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition Jane Martin said in a statement. “They’re taking advantage of children’s vulnerability, while building positive associations between their sporting heroes and unhealthy food and drinks.”
Results of the study found McDonald’s was the worst offender, accounting for more than half of unhealthy food and drink marketing that was shown during the match. Coca-Cola took up a third of total unhealthy food and drink marketing, while Gatorade accounted for 17 per cent.
Meanwhile, iconic brand Four n’ Twenty, known for meat pies and sausage rolls, accounted for 3 per cent of junk food marketing time. With teams competing for national draft picks, health experts are now calling for the AFL to phase out sponsorship arrangements with unhealthy brands.
“When over 26 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese, and nearly 31 per cent in Victoria – the home of the AFL Grand Final – major sporting bodies like the AFL should not partner with corporations who put profits before the health of children,” Martin added.
3AW host Tom Elliott addressed the controversy on his radio show, explaining that most people like to enjoy junk food when they’re at the footy. He pointed out that while critics have slammed advertising of junk food during games because athletes on the field can’t consume it, he said there are many things AFL players do that he and others watching can’t do.