“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,” Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said in a statement.
“While we’re dealing with this crisis and its aftermath, the cash cost of our sponsorships has to be zero.
“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.”
Qantas said it would continue its association with the Australian Olympic Committee and Paralympics Australia, and intended to fly the teams to the rescheduled Tokyo Games in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Qantas to ground most of its fleet and push it to a $1.9 billion annual loss for the 2019/2020 financial year. The company has stood down 20,000 staff and announced almost 8000 redundancies.
Qantas said it had also ended several of its arts and community sponsorship agreements, but would continue its partnership with the National Gallery of Australia and Museum of Contemporary Art.
“While it is obviously disappointing to lose such a loyal partner, it is understandable given the world we are all now living in and the challenges we are all facing,” RA interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement.
“There aren’t many 30-year partnerships in Australian sport and I want to thank Qantas for everything they have done for our great game. 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.
“While we have all felt the effects of COVID-19, rugby in Australia is entering a very exciting
Qantas was entangled in the Israel Folau saga last year but stood by RA during the ordeal.
In 2018, Qantas continued its partnership with RA after Folau’s first controversial remark in which he wrote on Instagram that gay people were destined for “hell” unless they repented for their “sins”.
The 73-Test Wallaby doubled down in 2019 by posting a photo on Instagram that said homosexuals, among other groups of people, including drunks and atheists, would go to hell.
RA ended up terminating Folau’s contract, something Qantas boss Alan Joyce said he was “quite happy” about after his organisation had earlier labelled the post “very disappointing”.
“We don’t sponsor something to get involved in controversy. That’s not part of the deal,” Joyce said. “We expect our partners to take the appropriate action.”
RA and Qantas had re-negotiated a new deal until the end of 2021 but sources with knowledge of negotiations say the value had been reduced compared with previous years.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald