Sport demands a lot of its stars. From the gruelling training sessions that see players sacrifice time with family and a personal life for those spent working tirelessly on their skills and fitness, to the incessant touring around the world that revolves solely around match schedules and competition, there’s also the pressure that comes with being a representative for a global team. Where it used to be the case that we looked at athletes solely as performers on the world stage, in recent years these stars have shown that it’s no longer permissible to separate sport from politics. Athletes have a voice, they are human, and just like anyone else would stand up for what they believe in, so too are they hoping to lead with the same integrity.
For Australian test captain Pat Cummins, the latter has led him to announce that he will not feature in any promotional material for Alinta Energy during the final year of its multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Cricket Australia.
It’s fair to say that the decision comes largely as a result of Pat Cummins’ own personal convictions, as the captain has long been a committed climate action advocate with a desire to see immediate action taken from governing bodies and Australia as a whole when it comes to the urgent threat that is climate change. But despite these views, Cricket Australia’s governing body insists Cummins’ environmental concerns are not the reason for the forthcoming end to the partnership.
Previously, Cummins had appeared in TV adverts for the energy company which has been Cricket Australia’s principal sponsor for the past four years. But just this week, Cummins announced that he would no longer be appearing in any promotional material. “Not for this year,” he replied when asked if he would star in any ads this coming season.
Prior to the announcement of the sponsorship deal earlier this year – one that will ultimately expire at the end of 2023 – Pat Cummins is said to have raised objections with Cricket Australia over their choice. The 29-year-old cricket star voiced his concerns that were shared with other players within the team to Cricket Australia’s chief executive, Nick Hockley, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to Cricket Australia, Cummins not featuring in promotional material isn’t a result of his strong convictions but rather a decision from Alinta, who are looking for change in its “brand strategy.” As a statement read, “CA confirms that at no point did any conversation between men’s team captain Pat Cummins and CA CEO Nick Hockley influence Alinta’s decision to finish its sponsorship with Cricket Australia in June 2023.”
It’s hoped that the split between Alinta and Cummins will encourage Cricket Australia to look at other sports sponsorships that are more in keeping with the nature of sport and its dependence on the environment. As Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze explained, “Sporting codes must be more proactive in seeking sponsors that meet community expectations for positive environmental and social impacts, rather than simply opting for the highest bidder from companies with damaging social and environmental modus operandi.”
The news comes after Cummins and fellow athletes Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Marnus Labuschagne, Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy all advocate for climate action through the Cricket for Climate campaign, which seeks to “protect the future of our game, and our planet, for generations to come.” Theirs is an aim to equip grassroots clubs with solar panels, while also putting greater pressure on sporting organisations to adopt sustainable practices.
As Cummins expressed, he hopes that the climate crisis and environmental concerns will be taken into account when Cricket Australia begins its search for a new principal partner for its men’s team. “Every organisation has a responsibility to do what’s right for the sport and what they think is right for the organisation and, I hope, society when it moves forward,” said Cummins. “It is a balance when you make decisions about who you are going to welcome into the cricket family.”