'This is a disgrace': Sponsor's brutal response to 'offensive' NRL grand final gaffe

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

The Gold Coast Titans have reportedly lost a major sponsor, partly because of Ryan James’ embarrassing blunder at the NRL grand final.

According to the Courier Mail, construction and event hire company TFH is withdrawing its six-figure deal with the club after seven years.

TFH had reportedly renewed its partnership with the Titans for next season but have since pulled the plug.

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The company is said to be using discretionary powers in their sponsorship agreement based on "public comment and discussion surrounding the team's performance, the performance of the coach and adverse discussions regarding the utilisation and selection of player talent".

However they’ve also reportedly pulled out because of James’ grand final gaffe.

Ryan James performs the Welcome to Country during the 2019 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Indigenous player was tasked with delivering the traditional Welcome to Country speech before the grand final at ANZ Stadium, but forgot the words halfway through.

“As a game we stand together, side-by-side … I’m lost,” James said sheepishly.

The crowd showed their support for an embarrassed James by giving him a round of applause, and he also received overwhelming support on social media.

However TFH apparently weren’t impressed, labelling the blunder “embarrassing” and “offensive”.

“The embarrassing performance of Ryan James in his speech last weekend was offensive and weighed heavily on this decision,” TFH director Brett Thomas reportedly wrote to the Titans.

"Additionally, the well documented doubts regarding the club's future in 2020 was also relevantly considered …"

TFH is a major sponsor of Ryan James and the Titans. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

TFH response shredded online

TFH’s response to James’ gaffe has caused anger in the rugby league world, with a number of high-profile commentators hitting out.

“If this is the real reason this is a disgrace,” Fox Sports commentator Dan Ginnane tweeted.

Fellow Fox Sports figure Mark Gottlieb said: “What a s*** cop out from TFH. Ryan James is one of the best role models in rugby league who made an honest mistake. He’s one of the game’s good guys.”

“Really harsh, this. All that happened was we laughed because it wasn’t us, and then we all got on with our lives. And now this? This guy is a terrific ambassador for our game. Lovely fellah too,” Inside Sport magazine editor James Smith said.

Scott Bailey of AAP said: “the only embarrassment in all of this is the sponsor”.

While Sydney Morning Herald writer Phil Lutton added: “You would go a long way to find a sh***er excuse than this for a company to get out of a sponsorship. Everyone felt for Ryan James apart from TFH apparently.”

And Channel Nine’s Michael Atkinson said: “Reckon James, a proud indigenous person, deliberately forgot the words to embarrass not only himself but his indigenous brothers & sisters (if they even were, which I doubt most were)?! This is a pathetic excuse from a corporation as big as TFH.”