Tim Winton urges Fremantle Dockers to drop Woodside Energy sponsorship

Group of fans including former WA premier Carmen Lawrence say having fossil fuel company as major sponsor is ‘no longer appropriate’
2022-10-18 22:35

High profile Fremantle Dockers fans, including Tim Winton and former Western Australian premier Carmen Lawrence, have called on the club to end its partnership with Woodside Energy.

In a letter to the club’s president, Dale Alcock, and other board members, the group wrote it “it is no longer appropriate to have a fossil fuel company as our major sponsor moving forward”.

It comes a day after reports that Australia’s Test cricket captain Pat Cummins raised objections with Cricket Australia about the team’s partnership with energy company Alinta.

In addition to Winton and Lawrence, a former number one ticket holder, the concerned group of fans includes former player and life member Dale Kickett, and his, wife, Kathy, an inaugural club member and former football manager, Gerard McNeill.

Alex Hillman, a former Woodside climate crisis adviser and strategist, and climate scientist, Bill Hare, have also signed the letter, which says Woodside had “doubled down” on fossil fuel production despite the company’s claims it would decarbonise.

The letter referred to Scarborough, Woodside’s planned offshore gas project, which was the largest fossil fuel project approved in Australia for a decade.

Global research firm Climate Analytics had estimated the development would produce 1.37bn tonnes of CO2 – nearly three times Australia’s annual carbon pollution – at a time when the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned no new fossil fuel projects could be built if the world was to limit global heating to 1.5C.

“Climate change is already creating catastrophic and deadly conditions for communities here and overseas, alongside massive harm to natural systems that support our economy and wellbeing,” the letter read.

The group said responsible institutions had an obligation to signal that countries needed to accelerate the transition to a decarbonised economy and cease all new fossil fuel projects.

“We should not allow our club’s good name to be used by a corporation to enhance its reputation when its core activities are so clearly threatening our planet,” they said.

The group said they were proud of Fremantle players who had demonstrated their commitment to climate action by signing up to The Cooldown and AFL players for Climate Action.

“As members and supporters, we are speaking out because we don’t think it is fair for these young men and women to run out with a fossil fuel company’s logo plastered on their jumpers any longer,” the letter says.

Lawrence said there had been past discussions between members of the group and the Fremantle board about the club’s deal with Woodside, which had been in place since 2010.

But with the season over, she said now was the time to say something publicly.

She believed the club would be “open to the prospect” of reconsidering the Woodside partnership, noting the work that had already been done to produce a sustainability action plan.

She said many sports and arts organisations were finding their sponsorship arrangements were out of step with community sentiment.

Diamonds players have objected to a sponsorship deal with Hancock Prospecting because of the resource company’s record on Indigenous and environmental issues.

A Perth festival faced calls last year to drop sponsorship from Woodside and WA parents also spoke out about the company being given naming rights to a Nippers surf life saving program.

David Pocock, now a federal senator for the ACT, last year raised concerns about Santos’s sponsorship of the Wallabies.

“For a long time, especially with the gas industry, there was a view that somehow it was less of a problem than other fossil fuels,” Lawrence said.

“But I think there’s been quite a rapid shift in community sentiment and understanding that this is not some kind of intermediary stage, the IEA says we can’t build new fossil fuel projects.”

Winton said fossil fuels, like tobacco and alcohol, “represent the old days and old ways that our sport and our team are trying to leave behind”.

Fremantle president Dale Alcock said Woodside had been a significant supporter of the club since 2010.

“We understand and acknowledge climate change and sustainability are key social issues for our members, supporters, players, staff and the broader community,” he said.

“With a fan base of more than 800,000 people, we respect and appreciate that there are many issues which our fans hold strong views about.

“As always, we will ensure these different points of view and perspectives continue to be heard and considered by our board and management.”

A Woodside spokesperson said the company was “proud to be part of the diverse communities in which we work”.

“Our sponsorship of the Dockers has extended beyond on-field sponsorship into areas where both organisations hold shared values and commitments to make a positive contribution, including through Woodside’s role as Indigenous program partner,” they said.

“We recognise the importance of our role in delivering mutual and sustainable social outcomes in the communities we are part of.”

They said the company’s climate strategy was to “reduce our net equity greenhouse gas emissions, while investing in the products and services that our customers need as they reduce their emissions” and the company’s climate strategy including targets for reducing its direct emissions and reducing methane emissions.

Comment was sought from Fremantle.