Sponsors in sport

Some players in cricket and netball have objected to wearing some advertising – and that is what it is – on their playing kit.  They do so because they object to the product of the sponsor.  This has led to some discussion.

Why should not a responsible person object to selling a harmful product? 

The problem, then, is the old one.  Where do you draw the line? 

Betting on sport is designed by nasty people to appeal to foolish people.  So that the nasty people profit from the fools.  As a result – and a result that is both predictable and direct – people get hurt; people get broken; and people are killed. 

Gaming is an insidious national cancer, and our failure to treat it is a disgrace to us all.

What decent person would not object to assisting nasty people to achieve those results? 

I know of no answer to that question that supports the current practice.  It is in my view shameful that sporting clubs assist betting on sport when that practice has the ill effects I have referred to.  It also leads inevitably to the risk of corrupting the sport. 

It is equally disgraceful that government continues to receive so much revenue from so vile a source.  Our governments have been bought off from doing the right thing.  This is the very dark side of capitalism.

But for me, our discussion about the reactions of the players overlooks a prior issue when we are talking about players wearing national colours – in, say, cricket, rugby or rugby league. 

Putting on the green and gold for our country is one of the few times we can decently refer to pride in our country.  We have a proper aversion to the word ‘patriot’ here – just look at the damage it does in America – but being part of an international sporting contest gives us a decent licence to feel it.  (Even the Germans are prepared to bring out their flag for the footy.)

It is just so vulgar – so depressingly common – to ask those who wear our colours – my colours –also to wear an ad for a sponsor.  Because those entrusted with handing out the jersey want the sponsor’s money.  Isn’t that just bloody grubby and unworthy of you and me?  Irrespective of what the sponsor sells or even stands for.  Those entrusted with running the sport – and it is a form of trust – are putting my colours up for sale.  We don’t do it for our judges, priests, or soldiers, and we shouldn’t do it to our cricketers and footballers.

Now, I am not saying that Pat Cummins and my team are being asked to turn out like sluts in white boots in the Bois de Boulogne.  But I am saying that people wearing the green and gold are asked to demean themselves and me by acting as salesmen while they are representing me. 

How can we tolerate any of this stuff?

My NRL team – Melbourne Storm – customarily wears the Crown logo.  That troubles me and it annoys me, and it is the subject of barbed comments by my friends.  But I am free to react accordingly – by, for example, going elsewhere to give my support. 

But I cannot and I will not do that for my nation’s teams – such as those led by Donald Bradman, John Eales, or Mal Meninga.  And it is not just the boys and girls of Australia who look up to these people.  They, and what they stand for, are part of the very fibre of this nation.  (And while I am about it, the Kangaroos’ jumper is the stand-out.  That’s what I call a bloody footy jumper.)

Let me give one example.  There was a time when you might have said that there could be no harm in the Wallabies’ wearing a red kangaroo on their jumper in support of the national airline.  But this listed company is now widely seen by the people of Australia to be as repellent as its preposterously overpaid boss. 

Who would want to be seen standing up for Telstra?  Or NAB?  Or the Australian Christian Lobby?  Or Foxtel?  What if some lunatic in government thought it would be a good idea to send the Wallabies out to endorse Centrelink – a name that fills most Australians with fear and loathing?

So, let us urge what used to be called the Panama Hat Brigade – the mob who put down Dawn Fraser and Cathy Freeman and who put up Kevan Gosper – to clean up their act and stop trashing our colours.

And the same goes for other big events in our national life.  It is a matter of taste or judgment whether you regard the Lexus Melbourne Cup as being as silly or offensive as the Fosters Melbourne Cup.  Then there was the time when the ownership of a national totem was shared with a foreign airline based in a nation that is mired in corruption and which treats half its people as doormats and all gay people with contempt.  How is that sporting bodies and players can wave through an outfit as repellent as that, but put up a red light to a smaller mob from Hong Kong whose sin is to dabble unfashionably in coal?

All that sponging is surely equally degrading – both to me and to the city that is the sports capital of the world.  It is time to cut it out.

Sponsorship in sport – gaming in sport – corruption – hypocrisy – misgovernment.

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