By Ian Neubauer

The future of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the National Rugby League (NRL) is uncertain following reports that major sponsors are reviewing their relationship with the code following fallout over the latest group-sex scandal.

Major sponsors Toyota and Telstra have effectively put the NRL on notice after the ABC’s Four Corners program broadcast a report alleging Mathew Johns and a dozen other former and current players and staff members of the Cronulla Sharks observed or engaged in group sex with a 19-year-old woman in New Zealand in 2002.

The woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, claims she was severely traumatised by the affair.

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) and Coca-Cola South Pacific (CCSP), which have joint and individual sponsorship agreements with the NRL and individual NRL teams, were contacted by TheShout this morning (May 15) and asked if they too were reviewing their relationship with the code. The companies said they were formulating a response.

But Foster’s Group, which sponsors both the NRL and the Cronulla Sharks through its VB brand, said it was a “long-term and committed sponsor and will remain so” and that it “supports the NRL’s and individual clubs’ response to recent issues”.

Cronulla Sharks chairman Barry Price has apologised to the unidentified woman at the centre of the scandal and expressed the club’s shame. However, he has stopped short of identifying the players and staff members who were part of an investigation into the matter by New Zealand police in 2002.

The woman alleged at the time the sex was non-consensual but the individuals involved were cleared of any wrongdoings. New Zealand police have said the case will not be reopened. 

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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