CRUNCH time is coming for a Fremantle Dockers’ sponsorship deal with oil and gas giant Woodside Energy.
The footy club’s long-standing sponsorship, said to be around $1 million annually, is due to expire at the end of the AFL season, but there’s a big push from Greens MLC Brad Pettitt and club members to drop the fossil fuel company.
“Woodside is taking advantage of the Fremantle Dockers’ beloved reputation in the community and exploiting the club and players as billboards for their climate and cultural heritage crimes,” Dr Pettitt said.
“Fremantle Football Club does not deserve to have its reputation tarnished by its continued association with a company like Woodside.
“Fremantle is such a progressive, passionate community and there is so much support for climate action here.
“The Dockers have an incredible opportunity to be leaders in the AFL and be the first team in the league to end a sponsorship on climate grounds.
“I appreciate that it is a hard decision for the club to make, but I think that the timing is right for a shift.
“When the Dockers first signed on with Woodside it was true that gas was necessary for the renewable energy transition.
“A decade on, we don’t need any new gas and yet Woodside is doubling down and opening more fossil fuel projects when our climate can’t afford any.
“Woodside is particularly bad as they are planning to open huge new gas projects that will run to 2070 and beyond, which is completely at odds with the scientific consensus.”
The Herald understands that the Greens campaign was starting to bite within the club, which prompted a visit from Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill who addressed the players.
She reportedly offered to double their sponsorship to $2 million annually, but a spokesperson from the company wouldn’t confirm the amount.
“We have never talked about the quantum of the sponsorship publicly,” the spokesperson said.
She also wouldn’t provide specifics of Ms O’Neill’s pitch to the players, saying her comments were “freewheeling and off-the-cuff”.
“But no doubt she talked about the important role of gas in the clean energy transition and the longstanding relationship with the Dockers, which is more than just a logo on a shirt.”
The spokesperson said Woodside had helped the Dockers work on their Reconciliation Action Plan.
Former Dockers cheer squad member and Greenpeace campaigner Sophie McNeill said it was inappropriate for Freo to continue its sponsorship with one of the world’s large fossil fuel companies in the middle of a climate emergency.
“This is firmly about leadership and being on the right side of history here,” Ms McNeill said.
Former Dockers football manager Gerard McNeill is also on board with the campaign, saying he grew up playing footy and knowing the tobacco labels all over his strip were wrong.
“It took time, but the reality hit home that making tobacco companies look good by associating them with elite sport wasn’t the way forward,” he said.
by STEVE GRANT