Brand-conscious sponsors make hapless players pay
From TONY ADAMS in Sydney
A leading rugby league player paid A$10,000 for a can of beer and another was sacked from the captaincy in a timely reminder of obligation to the game's sponsors. With the code still battling to overcome the fall out of the Super League war, sponsorship dollars have become more valuable than ever, as the two hapless players found out. Case one involved North Queensland Cowboys aboriginal star Ian Russell, who was slugged with a A$10,000 fine after drinking a can of beer on a flight back home to Townsville last week. Russell's 'crime' was that he drank a brand rival to that of the Cowboys' major sponsor, while sitting next to an executive. 'Ian had been warned before about this sort of thing,' Cowboys' chief executive Rabieh Krayem said.
'And as a senior player, he should realise that he is a role model within the club and has to do the right thing.' South Sydney captain Craig Field was the second victim of sponsorship pressure this week.
Field appeared as a guest on a television chat show recently wearing a Reebok shirt, angering executives of the club's major sponsor Canon.
Canon complained to Souths, threatening to withdraw the sponsorship of the battling Rabbitohs.
Souths reacted by hauling Field before the board and sacking him as captain. The star half-back also faces a hefty fine.
Meanwhile, the league has reacted swiftly to a brawling Wests-Penrith match shown on prime time television last week. Concerned for the game's image, the league cited three players, while a fourth was sent off. All were suspended for periods ranging from one to six weeks. The Western Reds fear they will die at the end of the year if Super League doesn't kick off. The club, struggling financially, will be rescued by Super League if the rebel code wins its appeal. Brisbane have angered league officials by signing star St George five-eighth Anthony Mundine to a massive contract for next year mid-season.