Jasmine Garner (centre) and other members of the North Melbourne AFL Women's team at training, photo: James Henry
Collingwood, Melbourne and North Melbourne have become the first elite women’s sporting teams to sign up to the Love the Game Sporting Club Program run by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. Love the Game aims to reduce young people’s exposure to sports betting advertising and to counter the social norm of gambling in sport.
While all 10 Victorian AFL clubs are partners in the Love the Game initiative, the Demons, Kangaroos and Magpies are the first three AFL Women’s (AFLW) teams to sign on, agreeing to forego any kind of sponsorship from betting companies.
This important move comes at a time when interest in women’s sport is rising steeply in Australia. While still in its infancy, the AFLW league has inspired a surge in participation in the code among young girls and women, and AFLW games are noted for their strong community and family-friendly feel.
‘Any modern sports organisation is going to be better for embracing the power of elite female sport and the inspiration it offers,’ says Collingwood Football Club CEO Mark Anderson. ‘It has been a wonderful experience and a privilege for our club to have the opportunity to embrace women’s sport.
‘All of our teams – men, women, football and netball – are on board with the Love the Game initiative. At Collingwood, community is a really important part of what we stand for as a club, and this initiative is just one example of how sport and our players can have a positive impact on our community,’ Mark says.
'Any modern sports organisation is going to be better for embracing the power of elite female sport.'
Mark Anderson, Collingwood Football Club CEO
‘The inspiration and joy that draws people to sports in the first place should never be lost. Love the Game reminds fans of how great sport can be and encourages them to remain focused on the play, not the odds.’
Fostering a new culture of Australian rules
Head of Commercial at Melbourne Football Club George de Crespigny says the Demons are aware that AFLW is a growing brand, and the partnership with the Foundation provides an opportunity to ‘get it right from the start’.
‘A lot of the AFLW fans are not traditional AFL fans, so the partnership is helping to get the ‘love the game’ message through to a new audience,’ says George.
‘The AFLW is having its greatest impact at the grassroots level, with the numbers of girls and women participating in the sport … and with the [television viewing] numbers we’re seeing for broadcast, it’s likely that at some point the betting operators will look at the league as a gambling vehicle.
‘As a club we see a social responsibility to communicate the ‘love the game’ message. We hope people who play the game, are fans of the game, understand the implications of betting and are able to enjoy the game for what it is, rather than have it jammed down their throats that it’s all about the odds.’
'The AFLW is having its greatest impact at the grassroots level, with the numbers of girls and women participating in the sport.'
George de Crespigny, Head of Commercial at Melbourne Football Club
Players are role models and can educate young people
Jasmine Garner, who played for Collingwood in the inaugural, history-making AFLW match before crossing to North Melbourne in season three, says AFLW players – as newfound role models for young people – have an important part to play in changing the culture of gambling in sport.
‘As AFLW players, we’re now role models for young girls and boys, and if we can raise awareness in any way and help educate them to the harmful effects of gambling, that’s going to go a long way,’ she says.
‘I’ve watched footy with people who can’t even enjoy the game because they’ve had a bet on it, and they’re so worried about wanting this person to kick a goal, or needing the game to be close, that they can’t actually sit back and enjoy it.’
Garner says she supported the club’s decision to forego revenue from betting advertising, and that this is an important way to ensure the ‘family-friendly’ nature of AFLW games endures.
'It has that local footy vibe. It's definitely important that we keep gambling away from that.'
Jasmine Garner, North Melbourne Football Club AFLW player
‘I went to last weekend’s AFLW game at the Whitten Oval, and there were so many young kids, everyone was having fun, some of the AFLW players were there in the crowd, taking photos … it’s all about enjoying the night, and it has that local footy vibe. It’s definitely important that we keep gambling away from that.’
Janet Dore, the Foundation’s interim CEO, echoes Garner in saying that the initiative shown by the three clubs is not only important from a footballing perspective, but also a community one.
‘Overwhelmingly, the Victorian community is concerned about this issue, with 74 per cent thinking adolescents are exposed to too much gambling advertising and 68 per cent thinking gambling should not be a part of experiencing sport,’ she says.
‘Sportspeople are ideal role models to tackle the normalisation of sports betting because they are influential in the lives of young people, especially here in Victoria, and they truly love the game, not the odds.’
Find out more about the Love the Game Sporting Club Program.