In Modern day sport it is almost unthinkable that New Zealand’s All Blacks or Brazil’s football team would find themselves without a sponsor, especially on the eve of a major tournament.
Yet sadly arguably Australia’s most successful sporting team the Kookaburras find themselves in this predicament just over a month out from the Olympic Games. However it should be noted that during the Olympic Games no sponsors logos are allowed apart from kit sponsors.
Australia’s men’s Hockey team have not been outside of the top five in the World rankings since 1975. They have finished on the podium at the Olympic Games at every Games since 1992. You have to go back to 1972 to find them finishing outside of the top four at the Olympics; they did not attend in 1980.
The Project Group, a Singapore-based company it was revealed yesterday has had to withdraw its $200,000 sponsorship of Hockey Australia.
In addition to their sponsorship of the team, which saw their logo on the back of the team’s shirts, The Project Group had promised each member of the 16-player Olympic squads a bonus, ranging from $10,000 for a gold medal in Rio down to $5000 for bronze.
Luckily the Kookaburras and the Hockeyroos are not driven by money. Although such a bonus would have come in handy to many of the players.
These highly-tuned, dedicated athletes, like most hockey players, are far from financially well rewarded. Neither do they have a huge entourage of support staff. Something that maybe contributes to their success, as it keeps them in touch with reality and their feet firmly on the ground. Players wash their own kit, carry their drinks and equipment from the bus to the pitch at major tournaments, and even help with the player-monitoring other team mates.
One of the stumbling blocks for Hockey has been the issue of Games being shown live on television, but that is beginning to change. The recent Champions Trophy which the Kookaburras won for a record 14th time, and where the Hockeyroos finished fourth was televised in 132 countries, including being shown live on Fox Sports.
Having worked on that broadcast, the crew at BT Sport, who had never covered Hockey were impressed with the speed, the skill, and the attacking attitudes of the teams; a welcome change from the negative defensive strategies used in modern-day football. This augers well for the future of the sport, and the news that there will be a new Global League starting in 2019.
If the All Blacks lost a sponsor there would be companies queuing up to come on board and be a part of not only their success, but also the much-used word, culture. The Kookaburras have a culture of excellence, they and the sport in general is rarely, if ever in the media because their athletes have misbehaved or been involved in a doping scandal. So why should it be so hard to attract a sponsor for a team that has consistently been one of the best in the world and is respected the world over?
Hopefully, a new sponsor will step forward. It may not be before the Olympic Games but if the team can once again finish on the podium, and possibly on top of the podium, hopefully there will be a queue of companies beating a path to the CEO of Hockey Australia’s door post Rio.
As for the players, they are used to playing the sport because they love it. They are used to not receiving the financial rewards that other International athletes receive. So rest assured that this blow will not affect their approach or their Olympic goals.