Netball Australia controversy erupts over Gina Rinehart sponsorship deal

Pictured left is Gina Rinehart and Australian netball players on the right.
Gina Rinehart's sponsorship deal with Netball Australia has been shifted back into the spotlight. Pic: Getty/AAP

Netball Australia has confirmed that the launch of its new uniforms for the Diamonds have been delayed over issues around the team's major new sponsor, Hancock Prospecting.

The company is billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart's flagship organisation, with Australia's richest woman helping to bail the national team out of its precarious financial position.

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Rinehart's sponsorship of the Diamonds came under fire when it was announced earlier in the year, with Netball Australia accused of taking money from an organisation accused of destroying the environment.

The Diamonds were supposed to wear new uniforms featuring a logo of their major sponsor for the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand, however, Netball Australia and its Players’ Association are in urgent talks about the situation amid unrest from the playing group.

Netball Australia says the unveiling of the new uniforms have been delayed “pending the resolution of outstanding matters relating to the player interim agreement and certain sensitivities”.

It comes as the Diamonds get set to play the Silver Ferns in the second Test of the Constellation Cup in Tauranga on Sunday.

Fox Sports News reports that some players within the Diamonds squad are concerned about being sponsored by a mining company, especially now that Indigenous player Donnell Wallam is a member of the squad.

Netball Australia said in a statement: “This delay allows time to ensure players remain focused on the Constellation Cup competition and for Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players Association to resolve these matters in an appropriate time frame”.

“Netball Australia is committed to continuing these conversations and working with all parties to the benefit of our sport.

“The Hancock Prospecting partnership is one of the most significant investments in our sport, $15m dollars will be provided over four years with 100% directed at players, coaches and the Diamonds high-performance program, providing the opportunity to help grow and strengthen netball.

“Netball Australia, Hancock Prospecting and the Diamonds will continue to work together for the benefit of the entire sport.”

Diamonds legend addresses side about sponsorship deal

Fox Sports News reports that former Diamonds captain Sharni Norder (nee Layton), who played 46 times for Australia, addressed the Aussie team ahead of the Constellation Cup.

“This is a company that doesn’t suit Netball Australia’s values," said Norder, who is 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.

Pictured here is Aussie sporting icon Sharni Norder (nee Layton).
Aussie netball legend Sharni Norder (nee Layton) has hit out at Hancock Prospecting's sponsorship deal with Netball Australia. Pic: AAP

“I did a zoom with the players just to educate them on doing right by the sport but also doing right by yourself and honouring your own values.

“I just wanted to have a conversation is that money worth your reputation and what you stand for as a person?

“Just so they are making good decisions for themselves because they represent the clubs and our country but also themselves.”

Norder had also hit out at Netball Australia's partnership with Hancock Prospecting when the multi-million dollar deal was announced earlier in the year.

"As a proud @SEA_theChange ambassador, it's unacceptable to put our brand alongside an open climate denier," Norder tweeted on Thursday.

"We have put too much into our sport to give social licence to a company who's (sic) profit-at-all-cost attitude puts our future in danger. Be better".

Rinehart's company, Hancock Prospecting, will support the Diamonds until the end of 2025, with the money to go towards the team's high performance program.

Seen here, Australian billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart.
Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting is set to pump millions of dollars into Netball Australia as part of a sponsorship deal. Pic: Getty

It comes at a key time for the national team as they prepare for the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town and the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.

Ex-cricketer Matt Berriman, the head of a consortium whose private equity offer to Netball Australia was rejected, also slammed the partnership at the time.

"So won't even engage with a credible team, that were willing to pay more then $6.5m for Super Netball & offered to invest into NA directly. Yet take money from Gina who's destroying Australian land & creating harm to the climate & increasing emissions. Am I missing something?," Berriman tweeted.

Hancock Prospecting has strong presence in Aussie sport

The Netball Australia deal is far from the first foray by Hancock Prospecting into Aussie sport, with the company having also signed long-term deals with Swimming Australia and Rowing Australia, as well as this year announcing a sponsorship of the Australian Olympic teams through to 2026.

A statement from Hancock Prospecting said: “In keeping with tradition, our new partnership with Netball Australia is athlete focussed. Assuming Netball Australia can reach agreement with relevant parties, $3.5m dollars each year for four years can be directed to the Diamonds High Performance Program and importantly includes that 100% of these funds would go to athletes and for coach salaries and the delivery of camps and competition costs, with none to be spent on any administrative costs.”

“Hancock Prospecting understands this sponsorship would help Netball Australia to have certainty around the Diamonds Program moving forward after a period of very real financial distress. Hancock’s support would enable Netball Australia to retain ownership of all its commercial assets including the Super Netball League, ensuring the revenue from the growth can be invested directly back into the sport of netball for generations to come. We note that this would not have been possible should a commercial agreement have been implemented with another entity, prior to Netball Australia choosing Hancock Prospecting.

“We are aware that there has been some recent enquiries raised regarding Hancock’s relationships with traditional owners. Hancock has positive agreements with all the native title holders in the areas we operate in, providing very significant royalty payments to the traditional owners in all our mining areas, well in excess of $300m in the last seven years alone. We work very closely with the communities on providing training, jobs, business development and contracting opportunities as well as heritage, health and education initiatives.

“Assuming Netball Australia is able to reach agreement with relevant parties, we look forward to working with Netball Australia and the Diamonds to support and provide more opportunities for many people, including young indigenous people in the Pilbara, broader West Australia and Australia. In any event, we wish the athletes well for their matches against New Zealand this week.”

with AAP

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