TO MANY, a beer at the cricket is one of summer's simple pleasures. But in the case of Allan Border, a conflict between his personal beer sponsor and that of Cricket Australia appears to have been the driving force in his decision yesterday to stand down from his role as a national selector.
The former Test captain recently fronted advertisements for XXXX Gold, owned by Lion Nathan, which is sponsoring beach cricket this summer in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth. Border will represent Australia in the tournament, alongside greats such as Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Dean Jones.
That, however, does not impress Foster's, a major sponsor of cricket. It recently announced a new deal with Cricket Australia, in which it would no longer be the naming rights sponsor of the triangular one-day series, but increase its commercial involvement at grassroots level.
Geoff Donohue, corporate affairs spokesman for Foster's, said the XXXX campaign involving Border was little more than ambush marketing.
"We think ambush marketing is fairly un-Australian," he said. "I will leave you to decide whether what they are doing with their current advertising campaigns is ambush marketing.
"I guess Allan has [resigned as a national selector] in pursuit of his own commercial interests. But we are thrilled with our association with Cricket Australia and the Australian cricket team, and we're more than happy with the access we have to the current players."
Mr Donohue's comments are an insight into what is expected to be a fierce turf war between rival companies during this most anticipated of Ashes summers. Already, Cricket Australia has sought flight-exclusion zones over major stadiums, following an incident at the AFL grand final which saw a Holden advertising blimp hovering over the Toyota-sponsored event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Assured exclusive sponsorship is IMO, a very poor way of doing things (for the sport, obviously, not for the companies trying to do it). That we lose a national selector over something so silly (that isn't even a conflict of interest) is only a sign of what's to come - what we will find (and have been given a preview in the West Indies) is that players (and maybe their selection) and obviously administrators will become hostage to group deals not necessarily made with their consent, and will no longer be able to make their own individual choices in the market.
As far as I'm concerned, companies should pay to be advertised, and that's it. You pays more, you gets more. The idea of everybody else being frozen out (particularly in a tangential way like this) is impractical and tips the balance of benefit right away from the sport.
The paranoia of this kind of stuff is really ridiculous, too. A couple of months ago, I was refused service at a cafe because I had a smoothie I'd bought elsewhere. I was willing to sit and have lunch with my family, and possibly spend $40-$50, and they refused me service because I had a $4.55 drink cup in my hand. Just stupid.