WACA, BHPB on the front foot

THE Pilbara iron ore community of Newman will be the major beneficiary of a partnership agreement between resources giant BHP Billiton and the Western Australian Cricket Association. The partnership rekindles a relationship that began in the 1980s with BHP. Amid growing competition for sports sponsorship, the first step in WACA’s new three-year partnership was the installation of a turf wicket at Newman’s Capricorn Sports Complex, which will also become the training venue for the WACA’s Retravision Warriors’ pre-season training camp next year. To celebrate, the WACA flew a group of the state’s cricketing legends, including Terry Alderman, Geoff Marsh and Bruce Yardley, to Newman to play in a Twenty 20 game with some of BHPB’s local staff, part of a workforce that contributes more than $US1 billion to the company’s bottom line. WACA chief executive Tony Dodemaide, who laid the final piece of turf, said the initiative went a long way towards fulfilling the WACA’s charter to grow the game across the state. “Installing a turf wicket and taking top class cricketers to Newman provides a fantastic opportunity to grow cricket at grass roots level in the north,” he said. “BHP Billiton has long supported the WACA and this partnership further demonstrates their commit-ment to cricket and the community in the Pilbara region.” BHPB recently posted the largest ever profit by an Australian company, recording $US8.7 billion in earnings for the year ending June 30, with $US1.3 billion coming from its iron ore operations in WA. The new partnership comes at a time of rejuvenation for the WACA, which had been experiencing particularly tough times, posting a loss of $1.34 million in the 2003-04 financial year. Last week, however, the association announced a turnaround of close to $1 million, reporting a loss of nearly $387,000 for the year ending June 30, the first year with Dennis Lillee at the helm as WACA president. Reporting earlier this year on the challenges faced by some of WA’s sporting teams in chasing the corporate dollar, WA Business News discussed the impact of the launch of the Western Force Super 14 Rugby Union team on sports sponsorship. In April, the Fremantle Football Club lost BankWest as its major sponsor, following the bank’s decision to redirect its sponsorship dollars towards the community. Perth’s new Super 14 side announced it had secured Dubai-based international airline Emirates as its naming rights sponsor in July. While BHPB vice-president mining iron ore, James Shaw, would not comment on the likelihood of a major sponsorship agreement between his company and the WACA, he said the deal would provide for an ongoing community benefit in the form of regular ground maintenance at the new wicket.• The reporter travelled to the Pilbara courtesy of BHP Billiton.

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