Sporting chance: Fans celebrate responsibly on rugby league grand final day.
Sporting chance: Fans celebrate responsibly on rugby league grand final day. Trevor Veale

Sporting clubs embracing message

THOSE days when involvement in a sporting club meant drinking binges and where high-risk and anti-social behaviour was the norm, are coming to an end.

In recent years all major sporting associations have moved to embrace social responsibility and promote better behaviour among players, members and supporters.

More and more clubs, from the professional level right down to grassroots club player, are recognising the need to promote a better code of conduct to all involved in sport.

Along the Coffs Coast, the past year has seen steady growth in the ground-breaking Good Sports initiative with a wide cross-section of organisations signing on.

Project officer Fiona Wendt said she’d been heartened by the response from some often overlooked quarters.

“As we move into summer and their moment in the spotlight arrives, I’ve received fantastic feedback from the cricket clubs in Coffs Harbour and their attitude to dispensing alcohol will have great benefits for members and supporters,” Wendt said.

“Also, things have really taken off around the Macksville area with a great variety of different sporting groups signing up.

“There are also many indications the soccer clubs will really take this to another level.

“So the responsibility message is spreading far and wide.”

She said there was a wider acceptance that sporting clubs, if harnessed appropriately, could lead positive social change in communities.

This encompasses less focus on alcohol, healthy food choices, attitudes towards women, treatment of officials and discrimination issues.

With rugby league’s high profile making it a target at the slightest sign of “players behaving badly”, greater media scrutiny and demands for social responsibility are helping to change attitudes.

It’s no secret several Group 2 clubs and officials are doing the groundwork for when alcohol sponsorship may no longer be appropriate.

Coupled with the Group’s new hardline determination to name and shame those who break codes of conduct, Wendt said benefits were likely to flow overnight.

“Orara Axemen were the first to join the project and they have moved near the top,” she revealed.

“I’m also very impressed by the switched-on attitude at Bellingen Magpies with a bunch of very good people making things happen.”

The NRL’s One Community program aims to use the sport’s high profile to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Through strategic partnerships in the areas of health, education and social issues, this program aims to stamp out bad behaviour and make change for the better, particularly to the lives of children.

The AFL has also launched a campaign called Respect and Responsibility.

It seeks to raise awareness around the prevention of alcohol-fuelled violence and violence against women, while celebrating diversity and participation in the game.

The campaign has been fronted by Richmond’s Jack Riewold and AFL legend Ron Barrassi.

This summer, Cricket Australia will again run its Know When To Declare campaign, encouraging spectators and supporters to watch their drinking, and “pull up stumps” when they’ve had enough.

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