PHOENIX, Arizona, June 5. SWIMMING Australia, still reeling from the aftershock of Barclay Nettlefold's resignation last week, was hit again with the announcement that EnergyAustralia was pulling its sponsorship just one year into a five-year contract.
Various media reports in Australia, including The Australian and the Brisbane Times, mention that EnergyAustralia comprised nearly half of Swimming Australia's revenue from corporate sponsors. EnergyAustralia is likely to be deemed the organization's most visible donor, however, as the title sponsor of the country's national championships. As of today, all upcoming national championships, as well as next year's swimmer of the year's banquet, still bears the EnergyAustralia name on the Swimming Australia website.
EnergyAustralia brought in $2 million annually to Swimming Australia's coffers and began the relationship last year, taking over as title sponsor of the national team from longtime sponsor Telstra shortly before the London Olympics. Though media reports do not expressly link EnergyAustralia's sponsorship withdrawal with the recent news surrounding Nettlefold, the timing would suggest that the two events are connected.
As a comparison, the loss of EnergyAustralia's sponsorship would be equivalent to Mutual of Omaha or ConocoPhillips backing out of funding USA Swimming, or British Gas pulling the plug on sponsoring British Swimming.
Alicia Coutts was one of the national team members who responded to the news on Twitter:
@nicolejeffery are you serious?????
– Alicia Coutts (@Alicia_Coutts) June 5, 2013
Swimming Australia CEO Mark Anderson responded to the EnergyAustralia announcement with a statement:
This is a difficult time for Swimming Australia and we recognise there are no easy solutions.
Firstly, Barclay Nettlefold resigned as President of Swimming Australia at the weekend. Now a major sponsor has withdrawn its support from Swimming Australia. This is obviously disappointing but we respect the decision.
The sport of swimming has been rebuilding since London. There is much to do. We have made a number of cultural and governance changes but the events of the last few days have crystallised the need for further endemic organisational and cultural change.
This process is well underway, and as a result of our own culture review, and the recent Smith Review by the Australian Sports Commission, significant, positive changes across the sport are already being implemented.
Swimming has a proud history of success in this country.
Recent results in the pool have been extremely encouraging. The trials in Adelaide showed that we are once again developing young champion swimmers — who are among the best in the world.
The results are testament to the hard work and dedication by our athletes, coaches and their families.
As an organisation — we need to match these efforts across all areas of the sport. This includes internal conduct, corporate governance standards and respect for others. We want to build a team and organisation that shares these values and ideals.
New structures have been, and are continuing to be, put in place to do this. The recent appointment of a new Director of High Performance in Michael Scott is an example of this. Further organisational changes are coming, and we have advertised for a new National Head Coach.
Financial support from sponsors is important to the success of Australian Swimming, but ultimate success in the pool is built upon hard work and a strong and stable supporting organisation.
During this rebuilding phase, Swimming Australia is committed to ensuring that swimming returns quickly to where it belongs –at its rightful place as Australia's number one Olympic sport.