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KIA Motors Australia has kicked its eight-year sponsorship with the Essendon Football Club out of bounds on the full and will cease supporting the team in October.

The car-maker was Essendon’s primary sponsor throughout the club’s drawn-out drug supplements saga.

Kia has not made any announcement of its marketing program after October and declined to respond to questions about remaining as a sponsor of AFL beyond the current season.

In sporting circles, Kia remains the naming sponsor for the Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL and backs the Australian Open tennis with Kia Motors global.

It is understood that Essendon, which struggled in the past two years but are now ranked 11th on the ladder, had asked for a larger financial commitment from Kia but the car-maker declined.

Kia stuck by the club during Essendon’s drawn-out “supplements saga” that led to the team’s $2 million fine from the Australian Football League, its ban from playing in the 2013 finals and the suspension of coach James Hird and the club’s general manager, Danny Corcoran.

A subsequent investigation led to 34 players being issued with show cause notices by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority over the alleged use of tissue-regenerative drug, thymosin beta-4 in 2012.

Before an AFL tribunal in 2014, the players were found not guilty. But the World Anti-Doping Agency then appealed to the court of Arbitration for Sport which reversed that decision, finding the players guilty.

The case went on appeal to the federal supreme court of Switzerland but was unsuccessful, resulting in 34 players being suspended for the 2016 season, including 17 active players. Of those, six are still with Essendon today.

By Neil Dowling

KPMG