Qantas pulls $20m in sponsorship, dumps Wallabies
Qantas has pulled its sponsorship cash from its five key sporting partnerships - ending a 30 year union with an already financially stricken Rugby Australia.
The move will save the national carrier up to $20 million a year but cuts off a crucial financial lifeline to sporting codes already struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"In an environment where thousands of our people have lost jobs and thousands more are stood down while they wait for flying to restart, we can't maintain these sponsorships in the way we have in the past. While we're dealing with this crisis and its aftermath, the cash cost of our sponsorships has to be zero," Qantas Chief Customer Officer, Stephanie Tully said.
"Our focus right now is getting through this crisis, which unfortunately means lots of difficult decisions like these," she said.
The Qantas logo will remain on the shirts of the national cricket and soccer teams after Cricket Australia and the Football Federation of Australia agreed to carry on over the next 12-months on an in-kind basis.
But the 30-year association with Rugby will finish at the end of the calendar year.
"Qantas has had a very long association with Rugby Australia and the Wallabies, and we've stuck with each other during difficult times. Unfortunately, this pandemic has been the undoing. Like all Australians, we'll continue to cheer them on from the sidelines," Ms Tully said.
The Daily Telegraph understands the revised deal with Qantas is worth more than $5 million in cash and contra - that includes flights for the Wallabies.
With no major sponsor, no broadcast deal beyond this year, and no certainty of what the Super Rugby competition structure looks like in 2021, rugby is now on the brink.
The game had to break their partnership with Qantas because they need cash and cannot afford to keep a major sponsor on contra alone.
Rugby Australia's interim chief executive Rob Clarke said: "While it is obviously disappointing to lose such a loyal partner, it is understandable given the world we are all now living in, and the challenges we are all facing.
"There aren't many 30-year partnerships in Australian sport, and I want to thank Qantas for everything they have done for our great game.
"Alan (Joyce) and his team have been transparent and collaborative in their discussions with us and they have now given us the opportunity to prepare for 2021 and beyond.
"While we have all felt the effects of COVID-19, rugby in Australia is entering a very exciting new chapter. We have a Rugby Championship on home soil for the first-time ever in November, a new generation of Wallabies players keen to make their mark, a Lions Tour in 2025 and the opportunity to host a Rugby World Cup here in Australia in 2027."
The cut in sponsorship has also hit the arts. Ms Tully said: "Sadly, we will have to end several of our arts and community sponsorships, but we've agreed to maintain a connection with a number of them, including the National Gallery of Australia and Museum of Contemporary Art in the hope there are projects we can work on together in future.
Originally published as Qantas pulls $20m in sponsorship, dumps Wallabies