As the Paralympic Games begin today, it has emerged that oil giant BP is no longer a sponsor of Channel 4’s prime-time coverage of the event.
An initial press release issued by Channel 4 in January 2020 announced that BP and Toyota would “share sponsorship equally” but a subsequent press release published last week stated that “Channel 4’s Tokyo Paralympics coverage will be sponsored by Toyota”, with no mention made of BP’s involvement.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, Channel 4 confirmed that Toyota is the “sole sponsor” of its Paralympics coverage but the broadcaster did not respond when asked why BP was no longer involved.
A spokesperson for BP said the company had agreed not to go ahead with the sponsorship last year “as part of our efforts to reduce spending in a very tough business environment”.
Channel 4’s coverage will include over 300 hours on direct TV, including nightly editions of ‘The Last Leg’ hosted by comedian Adam Hills, as well as 1,000 hours of coverage across 16 live streams.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We’re committed to delivering the very best broadcast coverage of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer, alongside our official IPC and BPA partner Toyota, who have been long term sponsorship partners of Paralympics programming for several years.”
The move comes after a number of athletes spoke out on climate change during the Tokyo Olympics, as many faced sweltering temperatures last month.
Meanwhile, opposition to fossil fuel sponsorship of sport and the arts continues to grow ahead of November’s crucial COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.
The initial announcement of BP’s sponsorship had been met by a firm backlash from youth climate strikers and a petition was launched by climate campaigners 350.org.
The news had come as opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the arts was reaching new heights, with the Royal Shakespeare Company ending its BP sponsorship deal mid-contract just a few months earlier.
Just weeks after Channel 4 had made the sponsorship deal public, 1,500 people took part in a three-day creative protest against BP’s controversial sponsorship of the British Museum, the largest in the museum’s 260-year history.
Since April there has also been a growing backlash against Shell’s sponsorship of the Science Museum’s flagship climate exhibition.
Oil and gas majors, including BP and Shell, have been widely criticised for announcing loophole-ridden pledges to go “net zero” by 2050 while failing to make concrete commitments to aligning their businesses with the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement or to end their exploration for new sources of fossil fuels.
Despite no longer sponsoring Channel 4’s coverage, BP does remain a ‘Gold Partner’ of the British Paralympics Association (BPA) in a contract due to run until the Tokyo Games.
BP is also an International Partner of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) up until Tokyo and sponsors National Paralympic Committees and individual athletes in Angola, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago, UAE and USA.
The world of sport remains awash with many high-carbon sponsorship deals, with a recent report by the New Weather Institute, Rapid Transition Alliance and Possible revealing more than 250 deals between high-carbon industries and leading sports teams.
The recent Euro 2020 football tournament was prominently sponsored by the Russian state gas company and mega-polluter Gazprom, as well as controversial car manufacturer Volkswagen.
Petrochemicals giant INEOS, owned by the UK’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, is currently the sponsor of the ‘INEOS Team UK’ sailing team, the ‘INEOS Grenadiers’ cycling team, and was recently announced as the new sponsor of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team in a move criticised by environmental campaigners.