Life insurance company Allied Dunbar is to sponsor the Rugby Football Union (RFU) league in a deal understood to be worth 7.5m over three years. The move comes amid controversy over the small TV audiences anticipated on BSkyB next season.
Scottish Courage refused to extend its sponsorship contract in February (MW February 28) because it was unhappy with the new deal it was offered. Courage currently sponsors all four divisions and is represented in a range of domestic cup competitions, involving 1,000 clubs. The deal has been worth 5m over the past three years.
Under the new arrangement, Allied Dunbar will only sponsor the first and second divisions, with no involvement in the domestic cup competitions. It is understood that the deal will be administered on behalf of Allied Dunbar by the sports management agent Alan Pascoe Associates.
In two weeks’ time, another financial group, Save & Prosper, will meet the RFU to review its sponsorship of the Twickenham ground, which has been worth 10m over the past 12 years.
Save & Prosper says the review stems from the small audiences the game is expected to attract when it transfers from the BBC to BSkyB – in a TV rights deal worth 87.5m over five years – next season. Five Nations games at Twickenham have attracted as many as 8 million viewers, but Save & Prosper sponsorship manager Simon Curtis estimates Sky will “struggle to get 1 million”.
The financial services group will be looking for a reduction in the cost of sponsorship, as well as increased signage and hospitality services, if it is to remain a sponsor.
A spokeswoman for Allied Dunbar says: “We are looking at a range of sports and arts sponsorships, but have not decided what we will commit to.”