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Sea Eagles court controversy with new sponsorship

Australian NRL rugby league club the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles has entered into a stadium naming rights and jersey sponsorship deal with gambling company Lottoland.

The Sea Eagles’ partnership with Lottoland will result in the club’s Brookvale Oval stadium being renamed as Lottoland on a long-term basis. The company’s branding will also feature on the upper-back area of the team’s playing jerseys for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the club confirmed that Lottoland would be investing a seven-figure sum. The partnership is set to secure the Sea Eagles’ future at the Brookvale Oval.

The deal has drawn criticism from South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who feels the proliferation of sports betting and gambling advertising is not healthy.

“The Manly Sea Eagles and Lottoland are in a race to the bottom,” Xenophon said, according to Australian public-service broadcaster ABC. “This goes even further than other brazen sponsorship deals just to rebadge an entire stadium.”

Lottoland managing director Luke Brill defended the deal. “We've monitored the forums and obviously there's a mixed response there from both Manly fans and the media,” he said.

“From our perspective we aren't the first gambling company to sponsor a stadium. Obviously there was a Centrebet Stadium, formerly the Penrith Stadium. So it has been done before and it's a well-trodden route.”

Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles have settled a dispute with food and beverages company Coco Joy, its former partner, over unpaid sponsorship fees. Coco Joy’s three-year partnership with the Sea Eagles had been due to cover the 2016 to 2018 seasons.

Flavour and Life Food and Beverages (FAL), the firm’s parent company, had claimed that its former chief executive Tim Xenos was not licensed to sign the deal in November 2015. Last May, FAL said it had terminated the contract but the team had insisted that the contract was still legally binding.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said Australia's Supreme Court has now ruled in favour of the Sea Eagles and the club is reported to have landed a significant settlement following the fallout.