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Alcohol-Related Player Behavioral Transgressions: Incidences Fan Media Responses and a Harm-Reduction Alternative

This article examines fan social media responses to media-reported, alcohol-related player behavioral transgressions that occurred in Australia’s two largest professional sporting leagues, the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL), over a 33-month period. Using netnography and content analysis, the study aimed to better understand the ways in which sport fans employed social media to voice their perceptions about alcohol-related player transgressions. The article reports on parochial fans’ commentaries about alcohol-related transgressions and uses these data to inform options for harm-reduction strategies associated with alcohol-related transgressions in sport. Sport fans expressed dissatisfaction when they observed disparity in policy responses from clubs and leagues. At the same time, the data show that fan responses reflect a desire for parity and protection more than punishment, with the former more relevant to game, club, and league reputation than the latter. We suggest that a harm-reduction policy offers one mechanism for managing reputation through a focus on parity and protection. We argue that the introduction of a harm-reduction approach would offer a more effective policy for managing player alcohol-related transgressions than the current ‘ad hoc’ approach.