The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is to capitalise on the success of the England team by opening rugby-themed high street coffee shops.
The RFU already has a merchandise outlet – The Rugby Store – based at the national stadium in Twickenham, but is proposing to add a “Café Rugby” upstairs and roll the concept out across the UK by 2003.
Cafés will open on high streets in areas with a strong rugby union fan base such as the South-west, London and the Midlands.
Town and city centres that have been earmarked include Leicester, Richmond, Bath and Bristol. Airports are also being considered.
Research by TGI and Lowe Lintas shows rugby’s target market is heavily oriented towards ABC1s.
A spokesman for the RFU says: “We want to position ourselves to sell all sorts of rugby apparel, not just England merchandise.
“We hope the themed cafés will rival other organisations such as the Sports Café. They will feature memorabilia, such as signed team shirts from famous players on the walls.”
The RFU has a burgeoning merchandising operation. It includes The Rugby Store, an RFU website and a mail-order catalogue.
It announced earlier this month that it has committed itself to overhauling rugby, with an eight-year strategic plan to reinvigorate the sport’s image.