The England women’s cricket team will reportedly be permitted to boycott the player of the match award at next year’s T20 World Cup after players expressed reservations about the award’s sponsor.
Last month, the International Cricket Council announced that Saudi Arabian company Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil exporters, would be the naming rights sponsorship partner for all major men’s and women’s ICC events until the end of 2023.
In a joint statement, the two parties claimed the agreement “reflects a shared focus on sustainability and innovation”.
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Aramco, which gained record profits this year as oil prices surged following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, already has commercial deals with the Indian Premier League, Formula 1, and women’s golf.
The majority state-owned company is also closely associated with a Saudi Arabian regime, which has been accused of multiple human rights abuses.
According to The GuardianAramco is “the single greatest contributor to global carbon emissions of any company in the world since 1965”.
Saudi Arabia’s expanding sports portfolio, which also includes the purchase of English Premier League club Newcastle United and the breakaway LIV Golf tour, has drawn accusations of “sportswashing”, or using high-profile events to distract from human rights concerns.
According to The Cricketerthe Professional Cricketers’ Association reached an agreement that ensured England cricketers would not be obliged to accept the player of the match award at the T20 World Cup in South Africa.
It comes after some players expressed unease about the sponsorship deal between the ICC and Aramco, the report claims.
Last month, Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa was asked whether he would be comfortable receiving a player of the match award at the Men’s T20 World Cup.
“We don’t live in a perfect world,” he responded.
“The fact that there is some conversation starting already, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for everyone.
“Hopefully I get the man of the match award at some stage though.”
The ICC will not sanction players who elect to miss the player of the match award presentations if the sponsor did not align with their values, PAA reports.
It’s the latest example of a growing phenomenon within professional sport of athletes taking a stance against sponsors from the energy and mining industry that contribute to the climate crisis.
Last month, the Fremantle Dockers were urged to cut ties with major partner Woodside after a group of high-profile supporters claimed it was no longer appropriate for an oil and gas giant to sponsor the club.
Meanwhile, Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting tore up its $15 million deal with Netball Australia after Diamonds players expressed concerns about wearing a team uniform that included sponsorship branding.
The Women’s T20 World Cup gets underway in South Africa on Friday, February 10.