The AFL says it is reassessing a lucrative sponsorship deal with Royal Brunei Airlines amid international condemnation of Brunei’s new anti-gay laws.
AFL Europe – the governance body for the sport across Europe – had previously promoted a year-long deal with the state-owned airline as its “biggest-ever sponsorship” agreement.
A strict new sharia-based penal code, imposed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, will punish gay sex with death by stoning once the legislation is fully introduced in 2015.
The AFL, which has pledged to stamp out homophobia in its ranks, made an embarrassing admission on Wednesday that it was unaware of Brunei’s adoption of laws introducing harsh penalties for a range of behaviour, including homosexual acts.
It is now reconsidering the deal between its European affiliate and the airline.
“AFL Europe entered into the sponsorship agreement with Royal Brunei Airlines in good faith, unaware of concerns outside the sporting arena about the Brunei government’s adoption in April this year of harsh and discriminatory cultural laws,” the AFL said in a statement.
“These laws are counter to everything the AFL stands for in regards to inclusion and diversity.
“In conjunction with AFL Europe, we are currently reassessing the appropriateness of the sponsorship arrangement and also the broader issue of the AFL’s oversight of potential sponsorship deals that are put to affiliate organisations overseas.
“Given the AFL has only recently been made aware of the situation, the sponsorship deal will be reconsidered in consultation with various key stakeholders.”
International businesses owned by the Sultan have been targeted by protesters over his harsh new laws, with celebrities including Jay Leno and Richard Branson calling for a boycott of the Sultan-owned Dorchester hotel business.
As part of its sponsorship deal, the airline flies international AFL players between London and Melbourne for competitions such as International Cup tournament held last month.
The airline is also involved in advertising events during live matches and events and on AFL Europe’s online platforms.