Qantas has blamed the cost of COVID-19 for its decision to end its 30-year sponsorship of the Wallabies, thought to be worth $5 million per year.
Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said, “While we’re dealing with this crisis and its aftermath, the cash cost of our sponsorships has to be zero.”
Qantas first supported the team as the “official airline” of Rugby Australia in 1990, and in 2004 shifted to become the headline sponsor. The collaboration eventually covered five Rugby World Cup tournaments and two British and Irish Lions tours.
“In an environment where thousands of our people have lost jobs and thousands more are stood down while they wait for flying to restart, we can’t maintain these sponsorships in the way we have in the past,” said Tully.
“Qantas has had a very long association with Rugby Australia and the Wallabies, and we’ve stuck with each other during difficult times. Unfortunately, this pandemic has been the undoing. Like all Australians, we’ll continue to cheer them on from the sidelines.”
Rugby Australia’s interim chief executive, Rob Clarke, said while the decision was disappointing, it was “understandable given the world we are all now living in”.
“Alan Joyce and his team have been transparent and collaborative in their discussions with us and they have now given us the opportunity to prepare for 2021 and beyond,” Clarke said.
The airline is also reported to be ceasing their financial support for the national cricket and soccer teams, and will continue only with ‘free’ payment such as flights and marketing.
Last week, Australian Aviation revealed how the airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, appeared to hint more jobs could be lost in his foreword to the business’ annual report.
“For not the first time in our history, we need to reinvent how we do things, which will result in more difficult decisions to ultimately protect the company’s future,” he Joyce.
“The impact of this crisis means the Qantas Group will be smaller for some time to come. The markets we operate in will be different. And we’ll need to rebuild our balance sheet.
“Seeing so many people leave this organisation, and many more stood down from the jobs they love, has been the hardest part of this crisis. We continue to offer them as much support as we can.
“This company was founded 100 years ago in the wake of a world war and a devastating pandemic. We know that things will improve, and that the Qantas Group will thrive when it does.”