The Gold Coast Titans’ major sponsor has abandoned the NRL club, saying their captain, Ryan James, made an “embarrassing” and “offensive” grand final Acknowledgment of Country speech.
The setback follows a disastrous season on the field for the Titans, who won only four games to finish last in the competition.
James, a Bundjalung man, was invited to give the address before 80,000 people at this month’s grand final but stumbled, forgetting his lines, before finally conceding “I’m lost”.
The crowd at ANZ Stadium responded supportively and his gaffe – which he described as “the biggest stuff-up of all time” – was not seen as significant at the time, and his predicament drew widespread sympathy online.
But TFH, a construction and events hire company, has formally told the Titans its sponsorship deal was being terminated “effective immediately”, citing James’s speech as a major factor.
TFH was a jersey sponsor of the Titans and also held naming rights for the club’s training centre at Parkwood in a deal reportedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Titans endured a bruising 2019 season, winning only four games to finish last on the ladder. Their coach, Garth Brennan, was sacked in July after having won only 12 of 40 matches during his tenure.
In a letter to the Titans, as reported by News Ltd, TFH’s director, Brett Thomas, said the sponsorship agreement was being terminated because of “public comment and discussion surrounding the team’s performance, the performance of the coach, and adverse discussions regarding the utilisation and selection of player talent”.
“The embarrassing performance of Ryan James in his speech last weekend was offensive and weighed heavily on this decision,” he added.
TFH has been a sponsor of the Titans since 2012, and weathered a player cocaine scandal in 2015, the sacking of two coaches, and persistently underwhelming on-field performances.
The Gold Coast Titans logo remains prominent on the TFH website as part of its “sponsored community”.
The centrality of James’s speech to TFH’s decision has been questioned by fans.
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