SYDNEY: Four days after several sponsors reacted decisively to the admission of ball tampering by three Australian cricketers, there are now suggestions that they may have been too quick to pull the plug.
The scandal which blew up on the third day of the third South Africa-Australia test match, when bowler Cameron Bancroft was seen to be rubbing the ball with sandpaper in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage, has led to the player being banned for a limited period along with captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner.
Within days sponsors were severing their ties with players and team. Financial group Magellan ended a three-year sponsorship deal with the national team that had begun only seven months earlier.
Sportswear brand Asics and electronics giant LG are among the high-profile brands that have called time on relationships with Warner and Bancroft, while Smith has been dropped as a brand ambassador by both Commonwealth Bank and breakfast cereal Weet-Bix.
The story has made the headlines around the cricket-playing world for days but some observers have questioned the “hysterical” nature of the reaction to the sort of gamesmanship that goes on in many professional sports, including former England captain Michael Atherton, who was himself fined over a ball-tampering incident back in 1994.
“There’s been unpleasant feeding frenzy through social media,” Atherton told Sky Sports. “He (Smith) has made a mistake, but he’s no criminal.”
He added that the over-the-top reaction would have an impact on the players’ mental health – something Weet-bix owner Sanatarium alluded to when it ended its relationship with Smith while also offering its support to Cricket Australia “to ensure that player wellbeing is a priority at this time.”
Not all sponsors have jumped on the bandwagon, however. “I think some sponsors (of Steve Smith) who have pulled out already might be regretting it after (his) press conference,” a sponsor of one of the three cricketers involved told The Australian over the weekend. “They’re jumping at innuendo and half-truths rather than what is really the lay of the land.”
Another blamed the media’s search for a new angle on the story. “We’re not rushing to a decision like others have,” he said.
“Companies need to act like good parents,” he added. “You seek to get an understanding of the situation before you do anything.”
Sourced from The Australian, Ad News, Sky Sports; additional content by WARC staff