Muslim player Sonny Bill Williams ‘to refuse to wear’ Super League gambling logo on shirt

Toronto Wolfpack's Sonny Bill Williams poses for a photo ahead of the Super League rugby league season opener. (Action Images via Reuters)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Muslim player Sonny Bill Williams ‘to refuse to wear’ Super League gambling logo on shirt

  • The 34-year-old New Zealander converted to Islam in 2009
  • Gambling firm Betfred have sponsored rugby league competition Super League since 2017

LONDON: Rugby superstar Sonny Bill Williams is set to refuse to wear the logo of Super League sponsor Betfred due to his religious beliefs, Toronto Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter said.
The 34-year-old New Zealander, who switched codes for the second time following last year’s rugby union World Cup in Japan, converted to Islam in 2009.
Gambling firm Betfred have sponsored rugby league competition Super League since 2017 and last year agreed a two-year contract extension.
“We’re in discussions with Super League about this, but Sonny has been very clear in his stance on the matter,” Hunter told the Daily Telegraph.
“I think Betfred will benefit by taking the position that we respect and honor the player’s religious beliefs.
“In today’s society there are some very sensitive issues but I think the sponsor can say ‘yes, OK, we understand this. He’s a big brand and big name but we get it’.”
In 2017, Williams covered up a Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) logo on his Auckland Blues shirt.
It later emerged that he was exercising a “conscientious objection” clause in his contract, telling New Zealand Rugby he did not want to wear the logos of banks, alcohol brands or gambling sponsors.
Williams initially switched from league to union in 2008 and won back-to-back World Cups, earning 58 caps for the All Blacks. He has also tried his hand at boxing.
The former All Black is reportedly the highest-paid player in either code of rugby after signing a two-year deal at the Canadian club and Hunter said he had been given shares in the club as part of his package.
Hunter said Toronto were already starting to cash in on their big-name recruit before he had even played a competitive match.
“The fan interest just generally and the amount of media attention which helps you sell everything has been tremendous,” he said.
“A lot of my friends don’t understand rugby league and are not Wolfpack fans yet say ‘but I heard you signed this really big player, the LeBron James of rugby league’.
“Our season subscriptions have gone up about 30 percent and our sponsorship dollars are up 35 and it could (be) 40 percent by the end of the year.”
Toronto kick off their Super League campaign on February 2 against Castleford Tigers.
They will play a number of their early “home” matches in Britain due to the harsh Canadian winter. Their first game in Toronto will be in April.


Bayern eager to stop Super Cup becoming virus hotbed

Updated 23 September 2020

Bayern eager to stop Super Cup becoming virus hotbed

  • Up to 20,000 spectators would be allowed by UEFA into Budapest’s Puskas Arena in a piloting project to test the return of fans into stadiums
  • Bayern legend Rummenigge anticipates “less than a thousand” Bayern fans will actually make the journey and only around 500 Sevilla fans are expected

BERLIN: Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists the German giants want to prevent Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup showdown in Budapest turning into a super spreader event due to a high Covid-19 infection rate in the Hungarian capital.
On Monday, Bavaria premier Markus Soeder warned against the fixture becoming a “football-Ischgl,” referring to the Austrian ski resort where thousands of holidaymakers were infected with the virus at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe.
“I really get a stomach ache when it comes to the Super Cup” Soeder added of Bayern’s game against Europa League holders Sevilla in a coronavirus red zone.
Rummenigge echoed Soeder’s comments on Wednesday, insisting Bayern Munich have “every interest in ensuring that no Ischgl of football takes place” in Budapest.
“I think everyone’s stomachs are churning. The game will take place in a city with a rate of infection of over 100 (per 100,000 inhabitants), which is twice as high as that in Munich,” Rummenigge told broadcaster ZDF.
“That has to be taken seriously.”
Up to 20,000 spectators would be allowed by UEFA into Budapest’s Puskas Arena in a piloting project to test the return of fans into stadiums.
However, Budapest’s mayor Gergely Karacsony wants the game played without fans.
“If I had the legal means to decide that, I would let the game take place behind closed doors,” he told Hungarian newspaper Nepszava.
The Hungarian FA (MLSZ) released a statement Wednesday saying the “Puskas Arena will be safer than any other place in the country.”
The MLSZ pointed out that Sevilla and Bayern fans can only enter the stadium after “strict health checks,” will be kept seperate and “will not meet with Hungarian fans.”
Rummenigge anticipates “less than a thousand” Bayern fans will actually make the journey and only around 500 Sevilla fans are expected.
“We have a great interest that they come back healthy and that nobody in Budapest gets infected,” emphasised Rummenigge.
He has promised a “serious and disciplined” approach with both Bayern and Sevilla offering traveling fans Covid-19 tests.
The Bayern chief also pointed out that to “all those who say that you really have to be extremely careful with the subject. We are.”
Bayern initially had an allocation of 4,500 tickets but hundreds of fans opted not to travel after the German government declared Budapest a risk zone.
European champions Bayern are also flying to Budapest with a small delegation of officials after being heavily criticized when a group of senior figures sat bunched together in the stands for Friday’s 8-0 rout of Schalke.
Rummenigge was among the group not wearing masks and seated close together in the VIP stand for the opening game of the new Bundesliga season.
“At the next game we will keep the desired distance and wear masks, no problem,” said the 64-year-old.