Riverina Football Club is changing the drinking culture in community sport

Stopping alcohol-fueled locker room celebrations is one way a sports club in southern New South Wales is changing the culture of drinking in community sport.

Culcairn Lions Football and Netball Club chairman Jesse Kent said his club was implementing measures to reduce alcohol consumption on match days.

“Sports clubs are not places where you have to feel like you have to drink alcohol to fit in,” he said.

Mr Kent said traditions such as encouraging a player to pick up a beer when winning best on the ground had been eliminated.

The Culcairn Football and Netball Club is proactive in managing alcohol consumption.(ABC Riverina: Emily Doak)

“In the bush football league, we have juniors [players] come and play on the senior netball and senior football teams,” Mr Kent said.

“We wanted to be aware of what we are promoting after games in terms of drinking and encouraging people to get changed, get out of the rooms and then go and have a beer in the main area of ​​the club.”

The club also offers bus transport after social events and has introduced more family-friendly activities for members.

“To create a safe environment that is still enjoyable, but we really want to promote ourselves as a family club,” said Mr Kent.

Sport and alcohol often go hand in hand

Bosco Rowland, a senior researcher at Deakin University, examined the relationship between community sports and alcohol consumption.

“There is a strong history of alcohol use in sports clubs,” Dr Rowland said.

“Often in rural areas where opportunities for socializing are limited, the sports club becomes the meeting place and because there is a lot of alcohol, it is often the introduction of alcohol for a certain number of persons.”

This exposure was problematic, he said.

“Young children who are exposed to more alcohol or allowed to drink alcohol while underage are more likely to drink at harmful levels when they are over 18.”

Dr Rowland studied the impacts of efforts to reduce alcohol consumption in community sports clubs in the Hunter, New England and Sydney regions of New South Wales.

He said many people were concerned that the management of alcohol would impact the financial viability of clubs that generated income through the sale of alcohol.

“The evidence shows that really what happens to clubs is that they might reduce alcohol sales or they might increase more low-alcohol drinks, but overall this what happens is they get more members,” Dr Rowland said.

“The club becomes a more family-friendly social environment because the flip side of selling too much alcohol…is that it drives people away.”

Premiership celebrations

The Culcairn Lions did not reach the Hume Football League final this year but Mr Kent said his club were still celebrating after the lockdown impacted the past two seasons.

A man in a brown jumper standing in front of the Culcairns Lions sign
Jesse Kent urges people to drink responsibly as they celebrate football finals season.(ABC Riverina: Emily Doak)

He hopes that these celebrations will be responsible.

“It’s really great to be back in the final after a few tough years,” he said.

“You get this vibe that people are really, really happy that we got through the season.

“Finals can be great days in the sun and drinking is obviously a big part of that, but it’s just making sure we’re safe and respectful.”

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