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Yakult commits to Essendon recovery effort

AFL Aussie rules football team Essendon has extended its partnership with probiotic dairy products company Yakult.

The new two-year deal covers the 2017 and 2018 seasons, with Yakult continuing to serve as the club’s official match ball partner.

Yakult will also provide backing for Essendon’s Next Generation Academy programme and support the club’s Crichton Medal award, which is handed to the best and fairest player at the end of each season.

Yakult first partnered with Essendon in 2005 and is the team’s longest-serving commercial partner. Its commitment comes as Essendon continues its recovery from a difficult recent period in its history. In January Essendon was hit by the loss of 12 of its playing squad after a total of 34 of its past and present players were handed two-year bans for doping as part of one of the biggest scandals to hit Australian sport.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal brought by the World Anti-Doping Agency against a decision in March 2015 that cleared the players of taking a banned supplement during the AFL’s 2012 championship season.

The bans were backdated to March 31, 2015, with credit given for any individual period of ineligibility already served. This meant most of the suspensions came to an end last month.

Yakult Australia managing director Kenji Ono said: “At Yakult we value loyalty and long term relationships. Since we first became a partner in 2005 we have admired the sense of community and inclusiveness that the club stands for. This was clearly shown in the way the club stood as one during a difficult 2016 season.”