Australian rule football’s AFL has confirmed that soft drinks giant Coca-Cola ended its long-standing relationship with the sports league when its latest contract expired last month.

In a statement to Australian commercial broadcaster Seven Network, an AFL spokesperson said: “After many successful years together, the AFL and Coca-Cola partnership came to and an end in October this year.

“The AFL recognizes the incredible support of Coca-Cola and extends sincere appreciation for the commitment to footy.

“The AFL will make an announcement on its beverage category partnership in due course.”

Seven Network said soft drinks brand Schweppes Australia would likely succeed Coca-Cola in the second-tier major partners category from 2023. Major partners sit below the league’s premium partners group, which is held by Japanese car manufacturer Toyota.

Coca-Cola will still be available at major stadiums including the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Marvel Stadium due to individual deals with drinks distributors for match days.

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One of the league’s longest-running partnerships, Coca-Cola’s last three-year renewal covered 2020 to 2022 and was made by Coca-Cola Amatil, an Australian bottler of non-alcoholic beverages that merged with Coca-Cola European Partners to form Coca-Cola Europacific Partners last year.

The renewal included two additional Coca-Cola Amatil products, the bottled water brand Pump and spirits brand Jim Beam.

Coca-Cola was AFL's title sponsor until 2001 when it stepped down to become a secondary sponsor of the league. The soft drinks giant was succeeded by Australian beer company Carlton and United Breweries, which held the rights in a four-year deal.

In September, the league announced the “biggest sports broadcast rights deal in Australian history” after extending its agreement with pay-television operator Foxtel, Seven Network, and telecoms giant Telstra for another seven seasons covering the 2025-31 cycle.

The renewed long-term agreement is worth a total of AUD4.5 billion ($3 billion) or AUD643 million a season – a significant uplift on the AUD437 million per season under the terms of the current two-year deal with Foxtel and Seven that ends after the 2024 campaign.

Earlier this year, the league announced it would release a range of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) after signing a five-year deal with Hong Kong-based gaming publisher Animoca Brands. That deal came after outgoing AFL chief executive Gillion McLachlan announced that AFL had struck a deal with the AFL Players’ Association that will see players receive 20% of revenues from the organization’s NFT projects.

The 2022 AFL season ran from March 16 to September 24 and was won by Geelong FC. The schedule for the 2023 season is due to be released later this month.

Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images