Test cricket captain Pat Cummins led a wave of player concerns over Cricket Australia’s (CA) contract with energy company Alinta before the two organizations agreed to end an almost $40 million deal.
CA recently confirmed it was re-entering the market for men’s team sponsors. He had previously signed a four-year deal with Alinta, but chose to only extend it for one more season.
The cricket body also denied that it had mutually made the non-renewal decision due to Cummins’ views. However, speaking to The Age and The Sydney Morning HeraldCummins said that he had shared the views of other players with CA CEO Nick Hockley.
Specifically, the players objected to Alinta’s parent company, Pioneer Sail Holdings, which had been listed as one of Australia’s highest carbon emitters.
“Nick lives just down the road, so I caught up and chatted with him quite a bit,” Cummins said.
“More so than ever before you’re seeing players’ personalities and interests and passions shine through and have a bit more of a say than maybe in the past.
“I think the most obvious, front-of-mind things you can see is who we partner with. So I hope that when we think of who we want to align with, who we want to invite into being part of cricket, I hope climate is a real priority.
“I’ve got my own personal views so when it comes to personal sponsorships there are some companies I wouldn’t want to align with. When we’re getting money, whether it’s programs for junior cricket, grassroots, things for fans around Australia, I feel a real responsibility that with that, we’re doing on balance what is the right thing.”
Following the Newlands ball-tampering scandal in 2018, many sponsors walked away including financial services firm Magellan. When first asked to appear in advertising for the deal, the SMH says that some players were “privately less than enthused” but felt they had little choice.
Sports people around the world and in Australia are becoming more strident in their ethical objections to the sponsorships and commercial deals penned by their teams and nations.
Netball Australia announced on Monday that its chairperson Marina Go would step down but remain as director as players refused to wear uniforms with mining company Hancock Prospecting branding. The players rallied round Donnell Wallam, a Noongar woman who was set to become just the third Indigenous netball player for Australia, had raised concerns over Hancock’s record on Indigenous issues.
The International Cricket Council has also unveiled a sponsorship deal with the Saudi state oil company Aramco, causing concern among players and spectators at the men’s Twenty20 World Cup.
Outside Australia, English Premier League team Newcastle United have caught the ire of many once their takeover by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. A series of court cases ended when the Premier League said it had “legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
The FIFA World Cup, due to be held in Gulf state Qatar next month, has also become a cause for consternation. Australian Josh Cavallo, the only openly gay top-level footballer, has poured scorn on David Beckham, for example, after the former England and Manchester United player signed a deal with Qatar promoting the World Cup.
“I just hope he’s continuing to be an ally for the LGBTQ community,” Cavallo said.
“The work that still needs to be done is staggering. For many standing up and living honestly will put them in harm’s way, it’s dangerous. Even deadly.”
The Premier League had been looking to ban front-of-shirt sponsorship agreements with gambling companies. However, the British government has chosen to delay publishing its gambling white paper which has allowed Fulham FC, AFC Bournemouth, and Everton FC to pen new deals with gambling companies.
Famously, or perhaps infamously if one happened to own shares in Coca-Cola, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo wiped $4 billion off the soft drink company’s stock price when he removed the bottles from the desk in front of him during a press conference, saying “drink water!”
What happens with CA’s sponsorship, however, remains to be seen.
“There’s a lot of good initiatives out there and passionate people, but I’d love for some of that passion to be driven into real action,” Cummins said.
“I hope that the purpose of the sport is to hopefully be a good thing for society and who we partner with, what decisions we make I hope are in the best interests of not only the sport but our society.
“If the last 12 months are anything to go by, it’s becoming ever more relevant, and in somewhere like Australia we’ve got no excuses. We’ve got so many resources and opportunities out there. I hope whenever we make decisions and look at what fans want, is it the right thing, is it the best thing for cricket, I hope climate is a big part of that conversation.”
For any would-be sponsors, it seems as though sports starts will only become more strident in their views lest they be accused of green-, pink-, or sports-washing.