The Western Australia Government has defended the use of the state’s Road Trauma Trust Fund to sponsor the Western Force Super Rugby team.
From this season, a $1.5 million sponsorship package will see the players take to the paddock with the very simple message “Road Safety” emblazoned across their jerseys.
The state government said the deal will “spread the road safety message throughout the rugby community”, and the team has the option to continue the arrangement for a further two years provided “key performance indicators agreed upon by both parties” are met - including up to 1200 hours of community or media campaigning from players and staff.
The cash-strapped team faced an uncertain future throughout much of 2016, and the WA Government had little choice but to step in and ensure the team’s viability ahead of the 2017 season - and just weeks ahead of the 2017 WA state election.
“We are gaining a partnership with the Western Force, we are getting a partnership in road safety, which will allow us to connect with a very important target market for us, with respect to road safety outcomes,” WA Road Safety Minister, Liza Harvey, said.
“Sport gives us the opportunity to speak directly to that target market and through this sponsorship deal with the Western Force, we’ll be able to reach out to our regional communities where last year the regional areas are where we had the worst results in regards to road safety.”
But while the team is unlikely to turn down any source of revenue during a difficult period financially, opponents have questioned why revenue from road traffic offences has been channelled into sports sponsorship.
All revenue raised from speed and red-light cameras in WA is piled into the Road Trauma Trust Fund, and the fund is designed only to facilitate road safety projects.
Use of the fund to sponsor a struggling sports team as a road safety project is seen by some to be stretching the envelope, making a mockery of the WA government’s insistence that the cameras are not designed or operated to ensure maximum revenue.
Further darkening the new sponsorship deal is the level of criticism directed towards WA’s speed camera program, which is one of the most covert operations in Australia, and the state’s 2016 road toll which jumped 20 percent over 2015 and saw the highest number of deaths since 2010.
WA is not the only state to use sports stars as road safety spokespeople, with the New South Wales Government sponsoring the Blues state cricket team with anti-speeding and anti-drink driving slogans in recent years, and the Victorian Government’s continued use of ALF stars to push various road-safety messages.
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