Footy players have now joined in with climate crusaders who urged Fremantle to sever ties with their major sponsor, energy giant Woodside, but an AFL Hall of Fame legend has slammed them for doing so.
Dockers stars Bailey Banfield, skipper Nat Fyfe, Alex Pearce and now-retired David Mundy are among those players to raise concerns about their club being sponsored by Australia’s biggest exporter of natural gas.
It comes off the back of 10 high-profile Fremantle fans who wrote a open letter to the club in which they urged the organisation to sever ties with Woodside, who has been in partnership with the club for almost 13 years.
Banfield, who has played 61 games for the club since being drafted ahead of the 2018 season, backed up the assertions of the letter, but did so with the ease of a slick, seasoned PR professional.
Dockers players including Bailey Banfield (left), Nat Fyfe (second from left) and David Mundy (far right) have voiced concerns over the club’s partnership with energy giant Woodside
Banfield, sporting Woodside Energy’s logo on the right of his chest, has spoken out today in support of high-profile fans who questioned the partnership
‘We’re doing some really strong work in the space. It’s about more than a logo on the jumper. We’re trying to grow as a club in this space,’ he told the West Australian on Wednesday.
Brownlow Medallist, former Bulldogs superstar Brad Hardie, wasn’t having a bar of it, however, and warned the climate-crusading players they should be ‘careful what they wish for’.
The decidedly cynical term ‘sports-washing’ might not quite capture all the things a company like Woodside can offer.
‘They (Woodside Energy) took Freo executives into Woodside and taught them leadership skills and good governance; they took the players into courses that gave them skills for when their footy finished. They did a lot more than write a cheque,’ Hardie told The Australian.
‘If a company like Woodside is forced out, is a betting agency more acceptable to them?’
Brownlow Medal winner, AFL Hall of Famer Brad Hardie, has urged the Fremantle players to think more deeply about what Woodside offers the club
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.
The 10 crusaders who attacked the energy giant, and called for the club to axe the contract, included former West Australian premier Carmen Lawrence, Freo legend Dale Kickett and prominent author Tim Winton – all Dockers fans.
‘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 open letter read.
‘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 legend Dale Kickett is one of the high-profile supporters to have voiced an objection to the partnership with the energy giant
Woodside Energy have been a major sponsor of the club since 2010, and their contract, worth more than $2million a year, runs at least until the end of 2023.
The logo of the gas giant features prominently on the chest of both the men’s and women’s home jerseys, and is on the back of the away jerseys. They have also contributed a significant amount of time and resources to the club’s Indigenous programs.
Banfield and his climate-crusading teammates are far from the only elite athletes to call out a major partnership, despite raking in millions in salary from their respective sports.
Aussie cricket skipper Pat Cummins voiced ‘ethical concerns’ about Cricket Australia’s $40million deal with Alinta Energy, which is now set to end after next season.
Pat Cummins (pictured in December 2021) has been photographed driving a Range Rover, regarded as one of the world’s most carbon polluting SUVs
Aussie netballers refused to wear a uniform sponsored by Gina Rinehart’s company – Hancock Prospecting – despite her sponsoring the squad to the tune of $15 million until the end of 2025
This is despite the climate crusader flying first-class regularly all over the world, driving one of the world’s highest polluting luxury vehicles (Range Rover) and enjoying a lucrative $2million contract from the organisation as the country’s best male player.
Just days earlier, Aussie Diamonds netball players refused to don a uniform sponsored by mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting.
Australia’s richest woman contributed $15million to help lift a struggling Netball Australia out of the doldrums after the organisation was almost completely broke, in a state of constant in-fighting and in a worsening relationship with fed-up players.
Dockers president Dale Alcock said the club were open to listening to the concerns of players – but stopped well short of axing a long-term sponsor.
Dockers star Nat Fyfe, sporting the Woodside logo on his chest, is one of four players to raise the partnership between the club and an energy company
The club figurehead also confirmed they would continue with the partnership with Woodside until it would be reviewed, as is always the case with sponsorships towards the end of the contract.
‘We are committed to Woodside until our current contract runs out at the end of 2023 and we are committed to that as Woodside are … and we’re obligated to deliver on that,’ he said on Wednesday when news of the open letter first leaked.
‘(But) We respect and value the comments that are being put.’
His dignified and logical response to the open letter, and subsequent comments from Banfield, drew high praise from a number of industry figures who were in support of the club’s stance.
The Federal government’s Resource Minister, Madeleine King, came into bat for both Woodside and Fremantle.
Woodside Energy’s both at the 2022 World Gas Conference in South Korea. The company is 10 biggest independent energy companies in the world by production
Woodside’s LNG gas storage tank in the north of Western Australia
‘Companies like Woodside have a critical role to play in reaching net zero emissions goals while ensuring the energy security of Western Australia and our regional neighbours,’ King told the West Australian.
‘I think that, like me, most, if not all, Freo fans and players and Woodside workers would agree that the world must work toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to arrest climate change.
‘The Dockers and Woodside support this goal. I support this goal. We have to work together to achieve it.’
Fremantle’s AFLW team also sports the logo of Woodside Energy
As well as their long-standing support of the Dockers, Woodside also sponsors a number of different arts and entertainment companies like WA Ballet and the WA Symphony Orchestra.
After the uproar on Wednesday, Woodside re-affirmed their commitment to climate change initiatives.
A company spokesperson said they are targeting a $8billion investment in new energy products and by 2030 a number of lower-carbon services like hydrogen and solar power.
The Dockers players are four of 260 AFL stars who have signed with a ‘Players for Climate Action’ group, who are calling for clubs to only align with partners that create ‘a safe future for our planet’.
Founder Jasper Pittard, who played 157 matches across a long career with Port and North Melbourne, was right behind the Fremantle players making a public stand.
That being said, the former Power star did admit that elite athletes who accept the incredibly healthy salaries that comes with life in a public sport, need to balance their ideals.
‘We understand the difficulty professional athletes can experience when talking about the sponsors of their teams and their sports, and the conflicts that these sponsorships can have with the values of some of the players,’ Pittard said.
‘We acknowledge the revenue that major partners provide to sporting organisations and we hope that these sponsorships align with a safe future for our planet and our game.’