Energy company npower is in talks to take over the &£5m-a-year sponsorship of the rugby Premiership from Zurich, in a move that throws further doubt on the utilities provider’s longstanding association with cricket.
Npower’s contract with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) expires this year, but the company has said it will not enter renewal negotiations until after the body has concluded its television deal.
An npower source suggests the company is looking at rugby as a potential replacement for its cricket sponsorship, regardless of the TV deal. He adds: “We are plateauing to a certain extent in cricket and if we are not in cricket any more, we will need a replacement.”
The source says rugby would fit with npower’s “regional strategy” as well as its core customer base. He says the sport has an affluent audience, and the Premiership is normally referred to by the name of its sponsor to differentiate it from the Barclays-sponsored football version.
Zurich announced its withdrawal last week (MW last week), although npower is understood to have been in talks with Premier Rugby for several weeks.
Channel 4 is thought to be favourite to retain the broadcast rights to England’s home international cricket Test matches, in a &£45m, three-year deal. Sky is likely to continue to show one-day internationals, as well as the new international Twenty20 matches.