Issue addressed: In 2004, the Australian Football League Central Australia (AFLCA) implemented the Responsible Alcohol Strategy (RAS), which aimed to decrease alcohol consumption at matches, and to promote healthy lifestyle messages to the youth of Central Australia participating in Australian Rules football.
Methods: The evaluation adopted a pre- and post-implementation design to monitor a number of performance indicators. The evaluation analysed routinely collected data from AFLCA, its Security Company, Alice Springs Police Department and Alice Springs Hospital; we surveyed AFLCA staff, club officials and umpires; and undertook direct observation at AFLCA events.
Results: The volume of alcohol sold at matches decreased. Survey data indicate decreased alcohol related violence, improved spectator behaviour and decreased spectator attendances. Police data suggest declining alcohol-related and violent behaviours, but trends were not statistically significant. Alice Springs Hospital injury admission data indicate a non-significant interaction between year and season effect.
Conclusion: In a community context of high alcohol consumption and high rates of interpersonal violence, the strategies implemented were successful in decreasing alcohol consumption and related undesirable behaviours at football games. However, these measures have resulted in unintended consequences: decreased numbers of spectators attending games, decreased canteen sales and falling sponsorship. The decreased revenue has raised serious issues about sustainability of the alcohol intervention, and stimulated discussions with government and others about strategies to maintain this important alcohol reduction policy.