Cricket Australia loses major sponsor over players' 'conspiracy' to cheat

Steven Smith (capt) of Australia during day 3 of the 3rd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at PPC Newlands on March 24, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Steven Smith (capt) of Australia during day 3 of the 3rd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at PPC Newlands on March 24, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Australia's Magellan Financial Group Ltd cancelled a naming rights sponsorship deal with Cricket Australia after it banned players involved in a ball-tampering scandal, the biggest blow to the country's governing body reeling from the incident.

Though some sponsors of Australian cricketers have pulled individual sponsorship deals, the decision by Magellan suggests the financial impact of the episode will go to the core of Australia's favourite sport.

Late on Wednesday, Cricket Australia slapped captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner with 12-month bans from international and domestic cricket for their role in a scandal that has rocked the sport.

Cameron Bancroft, who was caught on camera attempting to scuff up the ball with improvised sandpaper during a test against South Africa in Cape Town, was banned for nine months. All three were sent home from South Africa.

In a statement on Thursday, Magellan it was ending its contract with Cricket Australia a year into a three-year deal which was based on shared values of "integrity, leadership, dedication and an unwavering customer-first culture".

"A conspiracy by the leadership of the Australian Men's Test Cricket Team which broke the rules with a clear intention to gain an unfair advantage during the third test in South Africa goes to the heart of integrity," Magellan CEO Hamish Douglass said in the statement.

"These recent events are so inconsistent with our values that we are left with no option but to terminate our ongoing partnership with Cricket Australia."

Australian media have reported that the Magellan sponsorship was worth A$17-20 million.

Sports apparel maker ASICS Corp meanwhile cancelled sponsorship deals with vice-captain Warner and Bancroft, effective immediately, because of the incident.

"The decisions and actions taken by David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are not something that ASICS tolerates and are contrary to the values the company stands for," the ASICS statement said.

For Warner, ASICS was the second sponsor in two days to abandon him. Electronics maker LG had already said it would not be giving the 31-year-old a new sponsorship deal.

Several of Cricket Australia's major sponsors, including cereal maker Sanitarium, have said they would await the results of a full investigation into the scandal before deciding on the future of their deals with the governing body.

Sanitarium was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

A spokesman for Yum! Brands Inc, owner of fast food chain KFC, a Cricket Australia sponsor, told Reuters in an email it was "pleased that Cricket Australia has dealt with this incident swiftly for the benefit of the game and its fans" without commenting further. 

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