Gina Reinhart and Hancock Pull Funding From Netball Australia as Sportswashing Row Builds

Gina Reinhart and Hancock Pull Funding From Netball Australia as Sportswashing Row Builds

Gina Reinhart’s Hancock Prospecting mining company has announced that it will withdraw its support from Netball Australia after players objected to the deal last week.

Hancock had been due to spend $15 million sponsoring the Diamonds but, following reports of First Nations player Donnell Wallam expressing her objections to the deal due to the company’s record on indigenous affairs, the company has pulled out of the deal.

Wallam said her objections were to comments made in 1984 by Hancock’s founder, and Reinhart’s father, Lang Hancock. At the time, Hancock publicly supported sterilisation as a solution to what was referred to at the time as “the Aboriginal problem”. Reinhart has never publicly commented on her father’s views.

Sources close to Wallam told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was “devastated” with Hancock pulling its funding. The other netballers had tried to shield Wallam from scrutiny and delay any meetings with Netball Australia execs until after the England series. Under “extreme” pressure, Wallam and her representative agreed to talk with Kelly Ryan, chief exec of Netball Australia, on Friday. By that afternoon she had told Netball Australia that she was prepared to wear the Hancock logo on her dress.

Hancock did say it would continue short-term to help Netball Australia find a new sponsor. However, after the company pulled out of the deal to sponsor the netball team, Hancock donated $1 million during a Channel 7 telethon to fundraise for sick and vulnerable children. The donation was reportedly agreed to by workers who are said to have dipped into their bonuses for the charity.

“Hancock and Roy Hill’s recently proposed partnerships with Netball Australia and Netball WA 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,” read a statement from Hancock.

“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 deal, signed only last month, had been due to run through to 2025 and Hancock branding was supposed to appear on the player uniforms throughout matches. However, the team played against New Zealand last week with no Hancock branding.

Netball Australia is reportedly $7 million in the red, while players have also been asking for more wages.

“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,” Hancock said in a press release.

“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.

“Hancock and Roy Hill do not wish to add to netball’s disunity problems, and accordingly Hancock has advised Netball Australia that it has withdrawn from its proposed partnership effective immediately.”

Wendy Archer, chair of Netball Australia, said she regretted that ‘recent turbulence’ had resulted in Hancock terminating its sponsorship.

“We are grateful that Hancock Prospecting continued to stand by our sport throughout the recent turbulence and we regret the impact this has had on the company,” Archer said.

“This has been a challenging period for all involved and while every effort has been made from all parties to resolve the issues surrounding the sensitivities of the partnership, unfortunately we have not been able to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome.”

Last week, the Diamonds captain Liz Watson told ABC Breakfast that the team were “great supporters of Hancock” and that they “want to make this partnership work with them.”

However, the team had previously agreed to play without Hancock’s branding to show solidarity with Wallam.

Australians seemed to be split on the move, with some Twitter users claiming that this was another example of “Go woke, go broke” others believed that Hancock and Reinhart’s decision was conceited and unnecessary.

The Diamonds are not the only Aussie team fielding awkward questions about their sponsors to the people in charge.  Last week, Pat Cummins said that he felt uncomfortable with sponsorship from energy company Alinta.

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