There were red faces at the Rugby Football Union (RFU), after it failed to secure a title sponsor for the start of the new season for its domestic cup competitions. It has recently increased the asking price for the rights to £10.5m.
The season kicks off this Sunday. However, the RFU says it is confident of securing a sponsor, despite a £3m increase in the asking price, after the BBC captured the exclusive live rights to cup games recently.
Sponsors are thought to view the BBC as a more attractive proposition because terrestrial audience figures are far higher than Sky Sport’s ratings.
It is understood that interested parties already include Barclays and Allied Dunbar, with others likely to jump on board.
But a source admitted it was “conceivable” that a sponsor would not be found for the coming season.
But the RFU remains firm on the issue and one insider says: “The RFU’s reasoning is quite simple. In terms of television audience, you are likely to get two to three-times more on terrestrial television.”
The main competition in the package, the National Cup, used to be sponsored by Tetley’s Bitter.
The RFU would give no official comment on the changes but a source says: “This is not a crippling amount of money. However, we would be very disappointed if we didn’t get a sponsor.”
The RFU announced in June that it was going to repackage and restructure its domestic cup competitions, which also includes events.
In March the RFU presented a comprehensive plan to improve the sport’s image and make it more accessible on the back of the England team’s success.
A TV deal with Sky and the BBC earlier this month netted the RFU £200m over five years.