Mark McGowan has called for ‘reconciliation’ between Gina Rinehart and Netball Australia in hopes its $15 million sponsorship deal can be revived.
Australia’s richest woman accused the Diamonds of virtue signalling after national team players took issue with her offer.
The players were uneasy about being associated with Ms Rinehart’s company over racist comments Lang Hancock made about Aboriginals in 1984.
Indigenous player Donnell Wallam wanted an exemption to wear the sponsor’s logo on the team jersey with her teammates backing her decision.
The Western Australian premier was questioned about the saga during a press conference with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday and pleaded for the two parties to come back to the table for the good of the sport.
‘I know why those companies — Hancock and Roy Hill — have decided to pull their sponsorship,’ he said.
‘It would be great if there could be a reconciliation and sponsorship could continue.’
WA Premier Mark McGowan (pictured left with Anthony Albanese) has called on Gina Rinehart and Netball Australia to reconsider their sponsorship deal
In a press conference on Sunday Mr McGowan called for the parties to meet again to ensure the longterm future of the sport
Gina Rinehart has accused Netball Australia of virtue signalling after its players took issue with her sponsorship deal over offensive comments made by her late father
Mr McGowan, whose daughter played netball, said the situation had been ‘traumatic’ for all involved but stressed the importance of the sponsorship.
‘I realise that some of the things that were said weren’t appreciated by some of the people in Hancock and Roy Hill, but now, in light of what’s occurred, I just urge reconsideration,’ he added.
‘Virtually every girl plays netball at one point in time or another in their life.
‘It’s just a wonderful international sport that Australia is highly competitive in. It’s actually a great sport to watch… and it’s the biggest participation sport in Australia.’
The PM was also quizzed about the situation, where he too noted the importance of the sport on a national scale.
‘Netball’s an important sport in this country,’ Mr Albanese added. ‘It’s played by so many people — in particular by women and girls.’
Perth’s Super Netball side said it was ‘collateral damage’ in the situation and was ‘bitterly disappointed’ to lose Roy Hill as its main sponsor despite having nothing to do with the dispute.
The West Coast Fever have lost Roy Hill as its main sponsor as a result of the Netball Australia debacle – with the club calling itself ‘collateral damage’
‘We are the only SSN club directly impacted by this decision,’ chairwoman Simone Hansen said.
‘We are collateral damage to the national situation and we are frustrated that all netball stakeholders were unable to come to a united position and that this has played out in the media.
‘We were committed to the partnership and disappointed external factors outside of our control has resulted in the partnership being withdrawn.’
Ms Hansen said Fever players recognised the importance of ‘commercial funding’ and weren’t involved in any discussions to boycott the company.
‘Every single one of our players were supportive of our partnership with Roy Hill and sadly, they will be impacted the most by this decision,’ she added.
‘The club and West Australian netball has a long association with the mining sector and is extremely grateful for its ongoing support.
‘The mining sector and its related businesses are essential to the livelihoods of many West Australians, including netball families.’
Australian netball legend Natalie Medhurst has slammed the national setup for failing to communicate with its players over the bungled $15million sponsorship with a mining giant.
The $15 million contract was set to be a lifeline for netball Australia, which has lost $7 million in the past two years as Super Netball costs ballooned.
A source within the organisation told The Australian the sport’s losses could soon add up to $25 million as other sponsors considered walking away.
Netball Australia chief executive Kelly Ryan said losing the Hancock deal put the sport in a ‘financially compromised’ position.
‘We have done a power of work to get us into a more stable position. This money (from Hancock Prospecting) was going to help us accelerate our sport not only correct what has been out of balance,’ she said.
‘It was going to help us get ahead and now we’re back, literally looking through the budget as we speak.’
Ms Ryan earlier told the Today show on Sunday that she was concerned about the future of the sport but was confident it would get through.
‘We are certainly acutely aware of where our sport has been positioned. We have been doing a huge amount of work throughout the year to make sure we can right-size this ship,’ she said.
‘It is very disappointing to lose this funding which was really going to help accelerate us forward and put us in a much stronger position.
‘However, I’m still incredibly confident that we have the right plans in place that will get the sport to where it needs to be.’
Indigenous player Donnell Wallam reportedly wanted an exemption to wear the sponsor’s logo on the team jersey with her teammates backing her decision (pictured on Sunday)
When asked to respond to Ms Rinehart’s statement that sports teams should not be used for ‘virtue signalling’, Ms Ryan was noncommittal.
‘Obviously Mrs Rinehart’s views are hers and we fully appreciate them,’ she said.
‘There is a really important role that sporting organisations do play from grassroots right through to the elite to create a safe environment to have really strong social conversations.’
Ms Rinehart’s mining company Hancock Prospecting issued a scathing response as it withdrew its $15 million sponsorship offer.
‘Hancock and its executive chairman Mrs Rinehart consider that it is unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes,’ the company said.
‘There are more targeted and genuine ways to progress social or political causes without virtue signalling or for self-publicity.’
Medhurst said the future of netball in Australia is in jeopardy given repeated financial setbacks
Natalie Medhurst, who has 86 caps for the Diamonds, pointed the finger firmly at Netball Australia for letting down its stars and putting the game in jeopardy.
‘It’s a car wreck. Having played at the elite level for 17 years, seeing the sport like this breaks me,’ Medhurst wrote for CodeSports.
‘So much of this story is murky and amid the bombshell headlines, the crux of the problem has been lost.’
Medhurst said the sport was already in a precarious financial position and wasn’t in a place where it could be putting its long term future at risk with more sponsorship scandals.
‘Netball Australia and the Diamonds playing group haven’t always been one big happy family, but it has always been a hell of a lot better than what we’ve seen in the past two years,’ she wrote.
‘Enough is enough. No one is winning this battle.
‘Innocent bystanders, including grassroots players, volunteers and supporters, are taking a hit. Even spare a thought for Netball WA and the West Coast Fever, who have been sideswiped by this out-of-control vehicle.’
Wallam and her Diamonds teammates take a selfie before their Constellation Cup match with New Zealand on Sunday night
Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins also came under scrutiny for objecting to a deal with Alinta Energy despite previously starring in an ad for the brand, while Fremantle Dockers players demanded their club only promote sustainable firms.
Medhurst urged sporting bodies to create a better working environment for their players and work together on the deals they signed.
‘No coach or team (or business for that matter) could begrudge their players for living out the values of their culture. Otherwise, why bother,’ she said.
‘This holds true for the Australian Diamonds. On what grounds can we criticise them for living and acting upon the very culture that has been embraced and previously praised by the players, coaching staff and netball executives?’
She lamented the sport was already struggling with ‘well-documented financial problems’, and said continued failures could be ‘disastrous’ for netball.
Medhurst urged sporting bodies to create a better working environment for its players and work together regarding the deals they sign
Kathryn Harby-Williams, the Netball Australia’s Player’s Association boss and a former Diamonds captain, has broken her silence on the matter – revealing the players were willing to wear the sponsor through the upcoming competition.
‘It’s been a shock, obviously everyone is extremely disappointed but I think we need to clarify here the players position has always been that they were prepared to wear the logo during the Constellation Cup,’ Ms Harby-Williams said on ABC Grandstand.
‘We had come to an agreement with Netball Australia where everyone was comfortable that would happen and that Donnell and the players would not be required to wear the logo against England in the three-match series starting shortly.
‘At no point in time did the players seek to have the deal fall off the table but we were certainly willing to come to a compromise and had agreed to that shortly after the players stood by Donnell.’
Ms Harby-Williams said Wallam was never given an exemption but instead was pursuing one – and that the matter could have been easily resolved internally.
Player’s Association boss Kathryn Harby-Williams revealed Wallam was going to wear the jersey because the pressure of the situation was ‘too much to bear’
‘Donnell sought an exemption for herself and that wasn’t forthcoming because there was a meeting where it was made very clear that no exemptions would given to any player,’ she said
‘That was a disappointing moment because the players thought at the very least that an exemption might be given for Donnell at that point in time.
‘Obviously that was a disappointing moment for the players to understand that would not be forthcoming.
‘At no point was she given an exemption to wear the logo against England.
‘And that’s fundamentally what it came down to in the end, an Indigenous player, our first in almost 25 years, only our third in history, was seeking an exemption for just three games so that she could focus on her debut and then we could get to the table to sort it after the England series.’
The Player’s Association boss even revealed Wallam was going to wear the shirt because the pressure of the situation was ‘too much to bear’.
‘As a sport, I think that should be extremely disappointing for everybody because we need to do better and be inclusive, with no fear of reprisal,’ she added.
Hancock Prospecting statement
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 effective immediately.
Hancock and its executive chairman Mrs Rinehart consider that it is unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes.
Firstly, because sport is at its best when it is focused on good and fair competition, with dedicated athletes striving for excellence to achieve their sporting dreams and to represent our country at their very best.
Secondly, because there are more targeted and genuine ways to progress social or political causes without virtue signalling or for self-publicity. For example, the meaningful engagement with local Indigenous communities undertaken by Hancock’s Roy Hill Community Foundation in West Australia to support their actual needs.
Thirdly, because there are more impactful means to make a beneficial difference. For example, Hancock’s holistic support for real programs including Hanrine Futures – that are providing a true pathway for Indigenous students through education and into employment where they are guaranteed a job should they wish, at the end of their training.
The reality is that sponsorship is integral to sports organisations – for full-time professionals right through to young children at the grassroots level – who rely on corporations investing the funds that enable all sports to not only survive, but thrive.