Broadcasters should avoid ‘problematic’ shots of alcohol covering sporting events, researchers say

Alexia Putellas of Spain celebrates with fans after winning the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Final soccer match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 20. File Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Broadcasters providing news coverage of sporting events should avoid "problematic" shots of fans drinking alcohol, a team of researchers said Thursday.

Frank Houghton and Daisy Houghton, a team of social scientists in Ireland, made the declaration in a commentary article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine focusing on gender equity in sports driven by this year's Women's Soccer World Cup Final.

"Approximately 30 minutes into the match, and shortly after Spain had scored, the camera turned to focus specifically on a young female Spanish fan holding what very clearly appears to be a plastic beaker of beer and shouting in delight," the researchers wrote in their commentary.

Screenshots of the woman triumphantly holding the beer and surrounded by her gleeful peers were included in the article. The match against England was broadcast by Fox Sports and, upon review by UPI, the woman can be seen with the beer at 32:31 into the broadcast.

"This kind of image is highly problematic for a number of reasons. It highlights, normalizes and glamourizes alcohol consumption, as well as showing positives rather than negative consequences," the researchers wrote.

"It also has connotations such as: fans drink alcohol, fans drink while watching sport and drinking alcohol can make you the center of attention. One aspect of particular concern is the substantial youth audience that were undoubtedly watching this Cup Final match, particularly young girls."

Female alcohol consumption is lower than that in men which the researchers allege "is in the alcohol industry's interests to change."

Women's participation in athletics has "increased dramatically" in recent years, particularly in soccer and rugby, the researchers began the academic op-ed by noting. Similarly problematic images could be seen during the Rugby World Cup.

The Women's Soccer World Cup and high-profile sporting events for women could help reduce concerns over gender inequity in sports, the researchers noted -- also pointing to the fallout after ex-Spanish Soccer Federation head Luis Rubiales inappropriately kissed player Jennifer Hermoso which could lead to a #MeToo movement in the sport that challenges gender inequities and the treatment women face.

"The high-profile Women's World Cup may help respond to concerns over significant levels of gender inequity in sports coverage on television, and to concerns that 'If she cannot see it she cannot be it,'" the researchers wrote.

"Despite the positive outline above, the thorny issue of alcohol remains."

The duo noted that marketing researchers are also likely to perform more in-depth examinations of the exact quantity of alcohol advertising visible -- a common analysis conducted in sports-related marketing.

"No doubt both the Budweiser (beer) and Jacob's Creek (wine) adverts, which could be seen periodically in the cup final, will feature in this type of analysis in the near future," the researchers wrote.

"However, an additional and important focus has to be the ongoing efforts to copper fasten the link between alcohol and sport."