Men’s T20 World Cup – Players’ union will back those who opt out of sponsored match award

Men's T20 World Cup - Players' union will back those who opt out of sponsored match award

Cricket’s international players’ union will back any player who opts out of a sponsor engagement at the men’s T20 World Cup amid questions over the ICC’s player-of-the-match award.

The issue of association between players and sponsors has risen to the fore in recent days, following Pat Cummins’s withdrawal from Alinta Energy ads and Netball Australia’s Hancock Prospecting deal.

The ICC has also announced Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Aramco as a global partner and sponsor of player-of-the-match awards in World Cups, beginning with the men’s T20 event in Australia.

This has been met with some opposition given question marks over environmental sustainability and the Saudi government’s human rights record.

It’s believed the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) were consulted before the sponsorship announcement, but will back any player to express their views on it.

“Our focus at present is on agreeing the foundations of the relationship between players collectively and the ICC at a global level,” FICA CEO Tom Moffat said. “That’s including on the various global employment and regulatory issues that impact players and ensure cricket aligns with the global best practice.

“Part of our proposal includes a framework for dialogue on how cricket approaches human rights responsibilities. In the meantime if individual players do not want to be associated with a particular sponsor, we would support that.”

Aramco is also a sponsor of the player-of-the-match award in the IPL, where several prominent players have accepted cheques with the company’s name on it.

However there is a feeling the events of recent days, as well as the current spotlight on Aramco’s sponsorship, will prompt players to be more aware of individual sponsors’ backgrounds.

AAP has also been told that the ICC will not sanction players sitting out player-of-the-match award presentations if it went against their own beliefs.

ICC practice however dictates that beside an on-screen graphic and fan vote, there is no sponsor logo or name on the physical award.

Australia spinner Adam Zampa, who is one of cricket’s most progressive players through his vegan lifestyle, steered clear of saying if he would accept an Aramco award this World Cup when asked on Tuesday.

“It’s a good question…we don’t live in a perfect world,” Zampa said. “The fact there is some conversations starting about it already [is good], but it’s going to be a steep learning curve for everyone.”

Regardless, he said Cummins’ positioning had represented a step forward for the sport and the players’ desire to act as role models while balancing financials.

“There has to be a collaborative approach between players, CA and sponsors,” he said. “I have obviously got some personal views about some sponsors we have at the moment, but the fact Pat has started that conversation is great.”

The Aramco situation is likely to remain an issue at next year’s women’s T20 World Cup, while the sponsorship lasts until after the 2023 men’s 50-over tournament.

The ICC claim they can attempt to drive change through sponsorship partnerships and their own steps towards sustainability in cricket.

Saudi Arabia fielded their first women’s cricket team in five T20s earlier this year, while the ICC has assisted in setting up female participation programs.

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