Netball Australia cops $15 million blow as Gina Rinehart pulls the pin

The Australian Diamonds, pictured here in action in the Constellation Cup, alongside Gina Rinehart.
Gina Rinehart has pulled out of a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia. Image: Getty

Gina Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting have sensationally pulled the plug on a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia in a bombshell blow for the cash-strapped sport.

Hancock Prospecting, the company of billionaire mining magnate Rinehart, had agreed to a four-year, $15 million deal with Netball Australia after the governing body suffered losses of more than $7 million over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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However the deal was plunged into controversy last week when Diamonds players expressed their concerns about wearing the new sponsor on their uniforms due to the company's record on Indigenous matters.

Indigenous squad member Donnell Wallam had reportedly raised concerns over historic comments made by Hancock Prospecting founder and Rinehart's father Lang Hancock.

In a staggering twist on Saturday, Hancock Prospecting announced it had pulled out of the sponsorship deal and its subsequent ties to Netball WA and the West Coast Fever through Roy Hill.

“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," a 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, and similarly Roy Hill, embarked on these proposed partnerships in good faith and on the basis of representations and its resulting understanding that Netball Australia and the sport’s key stakeholder groups including the Australian Diamonds, were united in their support of one of West Australia’s pre-eminent mining companies becoming their principal sponsor.

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do not wish to add to netball’s disunity problems, and accordingly Hancock has advised Netball Australia that it has withdrawn from its proposed partnership effectively immediately."

The statement added that the company will still provide “short term funding” for four months as Netball Australia searches for an “alternative sponsor”.

Aussie netballers express opposition to sponsorship deal

Former Diamonds captain Sharni Norder (nee Layton) also expressed her opposition to the sponsorship due to Rinehart's climate record, and spoke to the team in the build-up to the current Constellation Cup series.

“This is a company that doesn’t suit Netball Australia’s values," said Norder, a Sports Environment Alliance ambassador.

“We’ve always stood up for social justice, we’ve always been anti-gambling, no smoking … and there were, and are, other avenues to source sponsorship.

“Lang Hancock’s past and what he said in regard to Indigenous people is just not suitable for Australian sport. Netball Australia has always tried to be inclusive... we now have Donnell (Wallam) in the team.

“This is not a respectful way to act and even if Donnell wasn’t in the team, we must do better."

The Australian Diamonds, pictured here during the Constellation Cup against New Zealand.
The Australian Diamonds look on during the Constellation Cup against New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Netball Australia said on Tuesday it had been decided it was not in the "best interests" of the players to wear the new branded uniform at the Constellation Cup, and this was supported by the sponsor.

Wallam is not part of the Diamonds squad for Constellation Cup but will join the team for the upcoming series against England later this month.

When she makes her debut, the West Australian goal shooter will become the first Indigenous Test player in more than 20 years.

Rinehart and Hancock also sponsor the Australian Olympic Committee, Volleyball Australia, Rowing Australia, Synchronised Swimming Australia and Swimming Western Australia - all of whom are likely to be watching this episode very closely.

with AAP

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