Netball Australia has announced Diamonds players will meet with Hancock Prospecting bosses in coming days as the sport’s sponsorship storm continues to swirl.
Netball Australia has moved to address the reported issues after players made a public stand to distance the team from the sport’s new major sponsor and stakeholder Hancock Prospecting — the mining giant spearheaded by Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart.
It comes after Marina Go on Monday stepped down as Netball Australia chair effective immediately in the wake of the player backlash.
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Go’s resignation comes after the Diamonds complained about Hancock Prospecting branding being placed on the team’s uniforms during its Constellation Cup series.
Netball Australia is holding its ground and the governing body’s new chair Wendy Archer declared the sport has reinforced its ties to continue to walk hand in hand with the mining giant.
Netball Australia on Tuesday morning released a statement refuting reports of a player boycott, while confirming the sport is trying to mend the divide between the dressing room and its new sponsor.
The statement also included an admission the governing body did not divulge aspects of its partnership with Hancock Prospecting following on from reports no player or the Players Association were consulted about the sponsorship.
Netball Australia said in a statement: “Mrs Archer also refuted claims of a lack of consultation with ANPA (Australian Netball Players Association) over the commercial partnership.
“She said that ANPA was advised in July of an impending mining partnership. Netball Australia acknowledges the identity of Hancock Prospecting was not shared due to commercial sensitivity following ANPA’s unanimous support of a private equity takeover bid for the Suncorp Super Netball competition.”
The sport has described the sponsorship partnership, reported to be worth $15 million, as “ground-breaking”.
The commercial agreement was a lifeline for the governing body, which has lost more than $7 million over the past two years, mostly due to costs associated with Super Netball.
Netball Australia says it is an absolute priority for the organisation to address, and resolve, individual player concerns about the partnership as soon as possible.
The organisation said in a statement: “Since becoming aware of cultural sensitivities raised by a Diamonds squad member in respect of the Hancock sponsorship uniform logo placement, Netball Australia and Hancock Prospecting have been working tirelessly to acknowledge and recognise the sensitivities, to further understand the concerns of that squad member and to provide avenues for support.
A Fox Sports report first exposed the divide between the players and the game’s new financial backer with respect to Indigenous player Donnell Wallam as she prepares to make her debut for Australia, having been selected in the squad for the Constellation Cup series.
Iron ore miner Rinehart has previously said climate change is not a man-made phenomenon — something former Australian captain Sharni Norder says is against the values of the team.
The protest also surrounds the origins of Hancock Prospecting Ltd, founded in 1955 by Rinehart’s father, the late Lang Hancock.
Hancock infamously suggested in 1984 that Indigenous Australians should be sterilised to “breed themselves out” in coming years.
Netball Australia has now refuted many aspects of recent reports, claiming the Diamonds’ leadership group had met with Hancock Prospecting the day after concerns about the branding were first raised where both parties agreed to work together to resolve the issue.
Netball Australia said it will now move to organise a meeting between the entire playing group and representatives from Hancock Prospecting.
“Mrs Archer said the players had been supportive throughout this process and refuted claims that the Diamonds had engaged in any form of boycott or refused to wear uniforms with the Hancock Prospecting logo during the recent games in New Zealand,” Netball Australia said in a statement.
“Netball Australia did not require the Hancock Prospecting dress to be worn during the Constellation Cup due to additional obligations placed on Netball Australia by the Australian Netball Players Association (ANPA).
“Netball Australia believed that it was not in the best interests of the players, the sport or Hancock Prospecting to wear the dress at this time. Hancock Prospecting has been accommodating and supportive of ensuring that players are not unnecessarily distracted.”
Australia takes on New Zealand in the Constellations Cup Second Test at John Cain Arena in Melbourne on Wednesday.