Qantas will pull about $20 million of sponsorships from Australian sports already taking big financial hits from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The airline will withdraw cash sponsorships of cricket, rugby, soccer and Olympics and Paralympics in Australia.

Qantas says cash sponsorships will end but the company will continue in-kind agreements such as commercial flights.

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The Breakdown | Episode 35

The move is a particularly heavy blow for financially-stricken Rugby Australia.

Qantas had held naming rights for the Wallabies since 2004 and been a sponsor for three decades.

Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully says the airline will save around $20m from the decision.

“In an environment where thousands of our people have lost jobs and thousands more are stood down while they wait for flying to restart, we can’t maintain these sponsorships in the way we have in the past,” Tully said on Wednesday.

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“While we’re dealing with this crisis and its aftermath, the cash cost of our sponsorships has to be zero.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Qantas has stood down more than 20,000 employees and announced up to 8500 jobs will go.

In August, the airline group posted a $2.7 billion before-tax loss for the 2020 financial year and forecast revenue to fall by $10b next year.

Rugby Australia’s current broadcast deal is set to expire at the end of this year with the loss of Qantas’ estimated $5m sponsorship another blow to the code.

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“While it is obviously disappointing … it is understandable given the world we are all now living in and the challenges we are all facing,” RA chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement.

Qantas said its in-kind support of RA, Cricket Australia, Football Federation Australia, the Australian Olympic Committee and Paralympics Australia would continue for the next 12 months before being reviewed.

The Qantas logo would continue on shirts of Australia’s cricketers with the airline expected to fly athletes to next year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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