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.


Coronavirus forces fan ban at Italian football games

Updated 26 min 43 sec ago

Coronavirus forces fan ban at Italian football games

  • The Europa League game between Inter Milan and Ludogorets on Thursday will be affected
  • Italy reported its fifth death from the virus on Monday and it has the most confirmed cases in Europe

ROME: Upcoming matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors to combat the spread of coronavirus, the Italian sports minister announced on Monday evening.
“Following the demands of the sports world and knowing that the ban on sporting events open to the public remains in force in six regions of northern Italy, we have agreed to the holding of matches behind closed doors,” said Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora after a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
The Europa League game between Inter Milan and Ludogorets on Thursday will be affected, but the minister did not specify which Serie A matches at the weekend would be included in the ban.
There are six games in the regions he mentioned, including the clash on Sunday evening between leader Juventus and third-place Inter.
Italy reported its fifth death from the virus on Monday and it has the most confirmed cases in Europe.
Napoli’s Champions League match against Barcelona on Tuesday is not at risk.
The alternative to banning fans is to postpone games and Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian Football League made clear earlier in the day that he was opposed to thats.
“We have made an official request to Health Minister Roberto Speranza to have this game played behind closed doors,” Gravina told the press. “We expect a quick response, but we have been told that the outcome will be positive.”