Australian Open Leads the Way — Game, Set, Match on Fossil Fuel Sponsorship

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Amidst the furor of the Novak Djokovic visa debacle and between the distractions of the Kyrgios–Kokkinakis doubles team-up, something far more significant happened at the 2022 Australian Open. Tennis Australia dumped fossil fuel sponsorship. Perhaps it is time more sports followed their example. Santos is currently sponsoring Australian Rugby and cycling’s Tour Down Under. 

RenewEconomy: “This week, Tennis Australia announced that it had ended a sponsorship arrangement with oil and gas company Santos early. The sponsorship deal covered Santos’ logo being featured in on-court signage at both the ATP Cup and Australian Open and was supposed to run across multiple years starting at the 2021 Australian Open.”

Just like Big Tobacco before it, Big Oil is trying to ingratiate itself with the Australian public by sponsoring sporting events and a greenwashing advertising campaign — despite the fact that it industry are threatening the future of summer sport and the health of elite athletes due to increasing heatwaves. 

With some of Australia’s top sports people calling for climate change action, it is time for more sports to decouple themselves from the fossil fuel industry. Leading figures in rugby, swimming, cricket, surfing, netball, and AWFL have joined the call.

“Other fossil fuel sponsored sporting codes must take note of this move by Tennis Australia and kick fossil fuel-backed companies into touch. Sporting clubs and codes can also rapidly cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by changing the way they build venues, power events, travel and by cutting waste,” says Dr Martin Rice, the Climate Council’s Director of Research.

Let’s review some sponsorships that are damaging the events that they sponsor: Adani’s sponsorship of the North Queensland Cowboys rugby team, Ampol’s naming rights to the National Rugby League’s State of Origin series, and Woodside dressing children between the ages of 6 and 13 in branded uniforms when they participate in the “Nippers” surf swimming program. How would we feel if they had T-shirts that said, “Anyhow, have a Winfield?”

While we are at it, we should closely scrutinize Shell’s financial support for the National Science and Technology Centre, known as Questacon, in Canberra. Questacon produced materials — intended for an audience of school children — that promote gas as a transition fuel.

It will be a painful process to wean sport and others off the financial teat of the fossil fuel industry, but removing “sportswashing” may be the only way to move forward towards stronger climate action. Join the 300 professional athletes who have signed The Cool Down pledge.

Sources: The Cool Down, The Guardian, RenewEconomy

Top photo by Jono52795 at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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