Cricket Australia denies Cummins influence

Cricket Australia and Alinta Energy have been in partnership for four years

Cricket Australia has denied that captain Pat Cummins influenced a decision to end a lucrative sponsorship deal with a power company.

The governing body said Alinta Energy was stopping the partnership “due to a change in its brand strategy”.

Cummins, who has regularly spoken out about climate change and environmental causes, had reportedly voiced his concerns to CA’s chief executive.

But CA said in a statement that “at no point did any conversation” between the pair have a bearing on Alinta’s decision.

It said it was “grateful” for Alinta’s “generous sponsorship”, noting its “leadership on transition to net zero… and the development of offshore wind farms”.

Alinta was described as Australia’s seventh biggest climate polluter in this year’s Greenpeace Green Electricity Guide.external-link

Cummins – speaking at a news conference on Tuesday – denied he was the reason behind the partnership ending next year.

However, he said he will not feature in any promotional material for Alinta during the final year of its sponsorship deal.

“Every organisation has a responsibility to do what’s right for the sport and what they think is right for the organisation and, I hope, society when it moves forward. It is a balance when you make decisions about who you are going to welcome into the cricket family” he said.

He also distanced himself from a sponsorship deal between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Saudi state energy company Aramco.

The ICC unveiled the multi-million-pound partnership with the world’s biggest oil exporter on the eve of the T20 World Cup.

Cricket’s governing body says the deal will help the sport become more sustainable, but it has been criticised by environmental campaigners.

Cummins said players were at “an arm’s length from their decision-making”.

“It’s obviously far away from decisions us players make – it’s an ICC decision,” he said.

The ICC says Aramco’s sponsorship of all its major men’s and women’s events until the end of 2023 “reflects a shared focus on sustainability and innovation, as the ICC moves towards making cricket a more sustainable sport”.

It added recycling machines would be installed across all seven match venues in Australia for the Men’s T20 World Cup, enabling plastic waste to be converted into clothing.

Aramco said: “Excellence is one of our core values and this is reflected in our support of cricket at the elite level.”

But Greenpeace said in a statement it is “laughably absurd that the future of cricket is threatened by the same climate crisis [Aramco] is fuelling”.

“These organisations should really ask themselves whether abetting this kind of blatant greenwash is worth the oil money they’re getting,” it added.

Both Aramco and the ICC declined to respond to the criticism when approached by the BBC.

Aramco is already a sponsor of the Indian Premier League and one of the biggest backers of women’s golf, among several sports that human rights groups say are being used to improve the country’s image by ‘sportswashing’ its human rights record.

Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression, women’s rights and the treatment of the LGBT community have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law. Some of the more high-profile cases in the country to have drawn criticism include the execution of 81 people in a single day, and Leeds University student Salma al-Shehab being jailed for 34 years for tweets which were considered critical of the state.

The Saudi government has previously denied accusations it is using sport in such a way, insisting the investment is part of an attempt to help the country to modernise and boost tourism and business.

Cummins is among a number of Australian players who have started the Cricket for Climate campaign – designed to encourage community clubs to adopt solar panels and achieve net-zero emissions over the next decade.

The Australian Cricketers’ Association has also signed the UN’s Sports for Climate Action framework and is supporting the initiative.

British Cycling last week prompted criticism from some members after announcing an eight-year sponsorship deal with oil giant Shell.

The federation said it would help initiatives to make cycling more accessible for disabled people and target a ‘net-zero’ status, but environmental campaigners say the “disappointing” move is “cynical PR” to improve Shell’s reputation.

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