Hancock Prospecting withdraws from $15m funding deal with Netball Australia after players revolt

Gina Rinehart’s mining company instead offers short-term funding until the organisation finds a new sponsor

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting has withdrawn a lucrative funding deal from Netball Australia after a players’ revolt against the company.

The mining company announced on Saturday that it would withdraw its $15m funding from Netball Australia. It has instead offered short-term funding until the organisation finds a new sponsor.

The Diamonds played without Hancock branding in their match against New Zealand this week, despite the sponsorship deal signed last month that was believed to give Hancock uniform branding rights.

That prompted speculation that the players had taken a stand against Hancock Prospecting. The team were reportedly siding with squad member Donnell Wallam, an Indigenous netballer, who had reportedly raised concerns about the company’s record on Indigenous issues.

In its statement, Hancock said its partnerships with Netball Australia were based on “the unwavering enthusiasm that Hancock and its executive chairman for over 30 years have demonstrated for the athletes who proudly represent our nation”.

“Hancock appreciates Netball Australia’s warm welcome and support, and because of this Hancock and Roy Hill have advised Netball Australia and Netball WA respectively, that it will instead provide a four-month sponsorship should they and their players wish to accept it, to continue funding the athletes and to help netball as it arranges alternative funding and sponsorships,” the statement said.

It also said that Hancock and Rinehart considered it “unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes”.

“Firstly because sport is at its best when it is focussed on good and fair competition, with dedicated athletes striving for excellence to achieve their sporting dreams and to represent our country at their very best,” the company said.

“Secondly, because there are more targeted and genuine ways to progress social or political causes without virtue signalling or for self-publicity.”

Netball Australia said prior to Sunday’s game that the new squad uniform had been delayed “pending the resolution of outstanding matters relating to the player interim agreement and certain sensitivities”.

Netball Australia has suffered losses of more than $7m in two Covid-impacted years. Hancock agreed a $15m sponsorship deal over four years.

In its statement, Hancock Prospecting said the sponsorship deal would have increased players’ pay. It also said it did not want to add to “disunity” within Netball Australia.

“Hancock and Roy Hill were not made aware prior to the proposed partnerships, of the complexity of existing issues between Netball Australia and the Players Association,” the statement said.

“This includes the Players Association’s endeavours to gain a very substantial increase in wages during a time the sport is reeling financially, and unable to provide such an increase.

“Hancock’s proposed sponsorship would have enabled a generous increase in wages for the players which would not have otherwise been possible given netball’s financial situation.”

The company also criticised recent media reporting.

“Sadly, recent media does not help encourage sporting sponsorships,” the company said.

“Neither Hancock nor Mrs Rinehart have ever requested or insisted that athletes provide any thank you videos or messages – although thank you videos and messages have certainly been received. Hancock and Mrs Rineheart would only ever want athletes to wear the Hancock logo if the athletes were proud to do so.

“Recent media misreporting has been disappointing, particularly given at no stage did Hancock insist its logo to be worn on the Australian Diamonds’ playing dress for recent games in New Zealand, nor did the Australian Diamonds refuse to wear the Hancock logo.”

Rinehart and Hancock sponsor many other sports, including the the Australian Olympic Committee, Volleyball Australia, Rowing Australia, Synchronised Swimming Australia and Swimming Western Australia.

Netball Australia has been approached for comment.


Christopher Knaus

The GuardianTramp

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