Fremantle Dockers caught up in sporting sponsor controversy

Fremantle Dockers players are seen lined up for the Australian anthem, with guernseys featuring a prominent red Woodside logo.
The Fremantle Dockers have been urged to walk away from their long-running sponsorship deal with Woodside, the largest exporter of natural gas in Australia, over climate change concerns. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The Fremantle Dockers have been urged to abandon a sponsorship deal with gas exporter Woodside amid a series of campaigns urging a shift away from deals with mining and energy companies.

A group of 10 high-profile Dockers fans, including former player Dale Kickett and the club's inaugural list manager Gerard McNeill, penned an open letter to fans hoping to spark action.

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Woodside is the largest exporter of natural gas in Australia, and have sponsored Fremantle for more than a decade, with their association dating back to 2010 and reportedly worth up to $1 million per season in that time.

The club agreed to extend the sponsorship arrangement until the end of 2023 this week with a dollar figure undisclosed, but the ongoing partnership has been met with criticism.

It comes as Cricket Australia move on from their main sponsor Alinta Energy from 2023 onwards, while Netball Australia is honouring a $15 million contract with Gina Rineheart's Hancock Prospecting despite concerns from players about it going ahead.

As part of its patronage, Woodside has invested heavily in Fremantle's Indigenous program and displays its logo on the club's guernsey.

Since re-committing to the Dockers in October last year, Woodside has merged with BHP's oil and gas assets to become one of the 10 biggest independent energy companies in the world by production.

According to the Clean Energy Regulator, Woodside's production of 9.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases made the company the ninth-highest emitter in Australia for the 2020-21 financial year.

In an open letter encouraging Dockers fans to put pressure on the club to seek sponsorship elsewhere, signatories including former WA premier Carmen Lawrence, author Tim Winton, Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist Bill Hare and former Woodside climate change advisor Alex Hillman said the club had an opportunity to help bring about genuine climate action.

"Climate change is already creating catastrophic and deadly conditions for communities here and overseas, alongside massive harm to natural systems that support our economy and wellbeing," the letter reads.

"All responsible institutions have an obligation to signal that we must accelerate the transition to a decarbonised economy and cease all new fossil fuel projects."

Fremantle Dockers urged to end association with Woodside

McNeill likened moving on from Woodside to bans on cigarette advertising in Australian sport.

"The time came when that was no longer appropriate, and it is the same today with fossil fuel companies like Woodside," he said in a statement.

"This is important leadership the club can provide regarding growing concerns about climate change."

The group is hoping they can win the support of current Fremantle players, some of whom made commitments to tackling climate change over the past year.

The likes of now-retired Dockers great David Mundy, former Brownlow medalist Nathan Fyfe and star defender Alex Pearce have all signed up to The Cool Down, a wider group of Australian sporting starts who are urging action on climate change.

Nat Fyfe is pictured playing for Fremantle.
Nat Fyfe was one of three Fremantle players to sign on for The Cool Change initiative, which features a host of Australian athletes urging action on climate change. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images) (via Getty Images)

Woodside is currently developing Project Scarborough, which non-profit organisation Climate Analytics says undermines Australia's commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The group's letter comes as major sponsor Alinta Energy opts not to renew its contract with Cricket Australia after Australian Test and ODI captain Pat Cummins urged CA to align itself with sustainable sponsors.

In a statement, Cricket Australia insisted Alinta's decision related to a change in brand strategy, not Cummins' comments.

With AAP

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