Pat Cummins has confirmed he will not appear in any advertisements for Cricket Australia sponsor Alinta Energy this season, despite authorities insisting his stance on climate change did not prompt the company to cut ties with the sport.
Cummins fronted a press conference in Brisbane on Tuesday regarding his new appointment as ODI skipper, but the focus quickly moved to his reported objections to the soon-to-end sponsorship arrangement with Cricket Australia.
He has already copped plenty of criticism for his views because he has previously appeared in advertisements for Alinta Energy and for driving a “polluting SUV”.
It comes as Netball Australia is fighting a battle with its players over the Diamonds’ objections to wearing a uniform promoting mining giant Hancock Prospecting.
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Netball Australia will not be turning its back on its multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal despite opposition from the national squad after Indigenous squad member Donnell Wallam raised her concerns.
The cash-strapped organisation on Tuesday issued a statement reinforcing its support for the partnership, saying the four-year deal with billionaire Gina Rinehart’s company, worth $15 million, underpins the Diamonds program.
Alinta Energy signed a four-year deal to become CA’s principal sponsor in 2018 and subsequently extended the partnership through to June 2023.
With less than a year to run on the contract, Nine Newspapers reported Cummins had expressed concerns to Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley about partnering with non-sustainable brands.
According to the Clean Energy Regulator, Alinta Energy’s parent company Pioneer Sail Holdings was responsible for producing 10.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in the 2020-21 financial year.
Cummins has long made clear his strong stance on action against climate change, as well as how cricket can better manage its carbon footprint.
The Test captain has previously been in television advertisements for Alinta Energy, but was asked whether it was correct he would not be appearing in them this coming season.
“Yes, 100 per cent,” Cummins said.
While Cummins told reporters he had not put pressure on CA to end the deal, he said players have a role in deciding which organisations they want to be associated with.
“It has always been a balance,” he said. “We have seen certain players make decisions based on religions, or certain foods they eat, where they won’t partner with specific partners.
“Every organisation has a responsibility to do what’s right for the sport and what they think is right for the organisation, and I hope society when it moves forward.
“It is a balance when you make decisions about who you are going to welcome into the cricket family.”
Cummins reiterated on several occasions the Australian players had supported CA’s partners and appreciated what they had done for the game.
Hours after Cummins fronted the press, CA said in a statement a “change in brand strategy” – not the skipper’s comments – had prompted the WA-based energy supplier to step away.
The release also noted Alinta’s leadership in transitioning to net-zero emissions through a range of initiatives.
The situation comes days after Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Aramco was announced as the sponsor of ICC T20 World Cup’s player-of-the-match awards.
Cummins said he had not been consulted on that partnership.
“They are a tournament sponsor. That is obviously far away from the decisions us players make,” he said.
The issue of sporting organisations and who they choose to align with is a topic that is moving front and centre in discussions surrounding sport.
The Australian netball team, which won Commonwealth Games gold this year and will compete in the World Cup in South Africa in 2023, met with Hancock representatives on Tuesday morning.
Diamonds skipper Liz Watson said the playing group supported the sponsorship deal, which was a lifeline after Netball Australia suffered losses of more than $7 million over two COVID-impacted years.
Watson said all parties “wanted to make it work”.
“As players we do know that Hancock is such a great investment for our program,” Watson said on Tuesday ahead of the team’s third Test in the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand in Melbourne.
“We are supportive of Hancock and all the players here are as well.”
Wallam is not part of the Constellation Cup playing group and will join the squad for the series against England which starts later this month.
When she makes her debut, the West Australian goal shooter, who plays for the Queensland Firebirds, will become the first Indigenous Test player in more than 20 years.
When the sponsorship was announced, Wallam raised concerns over Hancock Prospecting’s record on Indigenous matters, which date back 40 years to extreme right-wing comments made by Rinehart’s late father Lang Hancock.
Watson said the players wanted to stand by Wallam, who is reluctant to wear the sponsor’s logo.
“She’s part of this program, she knows where we stand, and we’re supporting Donnell with everything that’s going on. I’m confident that we will get a solution on this,” Watson said.
“We’re supporting her cultural sensitivities around the program, around the partnership, and we want her to be herself and feel comfortable and strong. I know that the girls are supportive of that.”
NA said on Tuesday it had been decided it was not in the “best interests” of the players to wear the branded uniform as it could prove a distraction, and this was supported by the sponsor.
Incoming NA chair Wendy Archer, who replaced Marina Go on Monday, said it was a priority to address and resolve player concerns about the partnership as soon as possible.
“Netball Australia has continually attempted to understand, support and work on a long-term solution to this matter which at this time remains unresolved,” Archer said in a statement.
Playing their first home Tests in front of fans since 2019, the Diamonds need two strong wins in sold-out matches Melbourne on Wednesday night and the Gold Coast on Sunday to claim back the trophy.
Watson said she did not believe the sponsorship saga had contributed to the team’s opening losses to the Silver Ferns in New Zealand.
“I don’t think so – we haven’t performed how we wanted to and New Zealand have been great,” she said.
“It’s on us how we’re playing. It’s not got to do with outside noise and New Zealand are playing really well at the moment.”