Sport in dire position after player's objection to sponsor loses $15m

The company issued a statement on Saturday "regrettably" announcing the decision

Sport in dire position after player's objection to sponsor loses $15m
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The netballer whose complaint about a sponsor threw her sport into chaos last week had changed her mind about not wearing the sponsor’s logo, but too late to stop Netball Australia losing $15m.

Indigenous netballer Donnell Wallam and her teammates said they would not wear a uniform advertising Hancock Prospecting because of racist comments the now-deceased founder made more than 40 years ago.

But, according to Australian Netball Players Association CEO Kathryn Harby-Williams, Wallam changed her mind when she was told no exemption from wearing the uniform would be given.

"In the end, Donnell sought an exemption for herself and that wasn’t forthcoming. It was made very clear that no exemptions would be given to any of the players," she told ABC radio.

"It got to the point where Donnell was then actually going to agree to wear the dress and that was simply because the pressure was too much for her to bear - and as a sport I think that should be extremely disappointing for everybody".

But Wallam’s change of heart came too late.

Hancock Prospecting announced on Saturday that the company was “regrettably” withdrawing its sponsorship of Netball Australia.

"Hancock and Roy Hill do not wish to add to Netball's disunity problems, and accordingly Hancock has advised Netball Australia... that it has withdrawn from its proposed funding partnership effective immediately," a statement read.

The company said its now cancelled $15m sponsorship “would have enabled a generous increase in wages for the players which would not have otherwise been possible given Netball’s financial situation”.

Hancock Prospecting offered to fund the sport for four months while more agreeable sponsors were found.

CEO Kelly Ryan told The Australian she had “reasonable concerns” for the financial future of the sport.

The sports organisation was already $4m in the red.

“Financially it puts the sport in a really compromised position again,” Ms Ryan said.

Sky News reported that Wallam was distraught about what had happened.

Meanwhile, people on social media have mocked Netball Australia, suggesting they recoup the lost $15m in sponsorship by running cake stalls and sausage sizzles.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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