Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Cricket is hugely popular in Australia, and there’s a ton of cash and fame for those who do it well. So, it’s understandable for players to do anything they can to win. What’s not understandable — and what has many cricket fans in Australia and around the world in an uproar — is what some Australian players are currently accused of doing in order to win. According to recent revelations, some members of Australia’s national cricket team cheated in a match against South Africa by tampering with the ball.

You may recall similar allegations against the NFL’s New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That case still elicits mockery and scorn from football fans, but nothing was actually proven, so there wasn’t too much blowback. This case, though, is very different, and team Australia is feeling the heat in a big way.

The alleged attempts to cheat included team Australia’s captain Steve Smith, who’s admitted to “orchestrating a plan to tamper with the ball,” according to multiple media reports. During the game, video footage can be seen of another player rubbing tape on the ball, which causes it to swerve around in the air. That move is illegal in the sport.

Qantas, the largest airline in Australia, and the major sponsor emblazoned on the team’s uniforms, was quick to put distance between its brand and the controversy, saying: “This is deeply disappointing and certainly not what anyone expects from our national cricket team …”

The sponsorship deal between the team and the airline remains intact at present, but it’s certainly on shaky ground. Qantas told the media the company will be “in discussions” with the team as more facts are revealed.

Beer brand Lion, another key Australia team sponsor, expressed similar displeasure. Beer brand Lion said: “This is not what you'd expect from anyone in sport at any level …” That open-ended statement is bad news for Team Australia because the ink on their four-year deal with Lion has barely dried.

Steve Smith, captain of Australia’s national cricket team, breaks down while speaking at a press conference in Sydney.

Regardless of what happens with the team and its sponsors, Smith seems poised to lose big, both in fan respect and in sponsorship cash. Certain key Smith sponsors have already indicated they may pull their support of one of the most popular cricket players in the country.

Meanwhile, governing body Cricket Australia has banned Smith from international cricket for a year, with Smith stepping down as Australian team captain, as well as from the Indian Premier League team on which he plays, the Rajasthan Royals. While addressing the media in Sydney, an emotional Smith said "I take full responsibility ... There was a failure of leadership, of my leadership. I'll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it's caused."

As this story evolves, both the team and its former captain are walking a tightrope and trying to make amends.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, an NY PR agency.