Major NRL and AFL sponsor, Telstra, will reassess its suppport of Australian sport if it finds there has been “untoward behaviour” in terms of drug-taking and match-fixing, the telco announced yesterday.
The statement from Australia’s biggest communications company came after the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) released a report revealing widespread use of banned drugs in professional sport and links with organized crime.
Telstra CEO David Thodey said the telco would examine the details of drug-taking allegations and match-fixing in professional sporting codes prior to making a decision as to the future of its sporting sponsorship deals. It currently sponsors the NRL, AFL, V8 Supercars and the Australian Olympic Team.
Thodey told the press: “Our brand image is tied up with those who we sponsor so if there is untoward behaviour that we don't agree with, we would make our position very clear. We will always do that.
“We've always been very clear in terms of our sponsorships, even when the NRL had a bad time going back two seasons ago.
“I understand stories come and go but we will need to look at the detail and make our decision.”
Telstra has been the naming rights sponsor for the NRL for over a decade, and renewed its sponsorship and digital rights partnership, worth more than $100m, for another five years in December last year.
According to the ACC report, Australian athletes have been turning to a "new generation" of banned substances, using hormones and peptides, such as growth hormone releasing hexapeptide (GHRP).
The practice, it said, is widespread, with no code immune from the scandal. Doping is being run by sports scientists, coaches, support staff, doctors and pharmacists.
Furthermore, organised crime is involved in distributing the drugs and, in one possible case, match-fixing.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) will soon embark on a "full and unhindered investigation" which pledges to further jeopardise millions of dollars worth of financial support provided by blue-chip sponsors across national sport.
VB, Coca Cola, AAMI, NIB, GIO and Harvey Norman are currently just some of the brands which pour funds into the NRL, while Toyota, Carlton Draught and NAB, amongst others, support AFL.
The NRL is currently investigating Manly and Penrith's records while the AFL has announced changes to its integrity program.