Premier­ship’s plans to cash in on World Cup go up in smoke

‘This is not at all what spon­sors want af­ter the feel-good fac­tor of Ja­pan’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Tom Mor­gan SPORTS NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

The Sara­cens furore is dis­as­trous tim­ing for Premier­ship Rugby, which was plot­ting to profit from Eng­land’s suc­cess at the World Cup, spon­sor­ship chiefs said last night.

Pri­vate eq­uity group CVC Cap­i­tal Part­ners, which bought a 27 per cent stake last year, is said to be par­tic­u­larly sore, hav­ing seen this sea­son as a launch pad for in­ter­na­tional spon­sor­ship and TV deals. Sara­cens face be­ing docked 35 points and fined more than £5mil­lion for mul­ti­ple breaches of the salary cap reg­u­la­tions in a league fac­ing in­creas­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sure. Last year the 13 clubs, 12 in the league plus London Ir­ish, racked up over­all losses of £50 mil­lion.

CVC had been hop­ing that per­for­mances from the likes of Owen Far­rell in Ja­pan would boost the chances of stream­ing gi­ants such as Ama­zon bid­ding for rights. The Premier­ship’s main broad­cast con­tract is held by BT Sport to 2021.

How­ever, Tom Glad­stone, head of strat­egy at En­gine Sport, which works with Mit­subishi and other in­ter­na­tional rugby spon­sors, told

The Daily Tele­graph that the scan­dal tar­nished ne­go­ti­a­tions for po­ten­tial brand deals.

“It is not the nar­ra­tive that rugby ad­min­is­tra­tors, broad­cast­ers or spon­sors would want as they try to cap­i­talise on the feel-good fac­tor from the World Cup,” Glad­stone said. “The re­turn of Sara­cens’ mas­sive World Cup con­tin­gent is a big mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity, but that now seems tar­nished by the salarycap breach.” He added that “rugby’s com­mer­cial value is un­likely to be im­pacted” in the long term.

Simon Dent, founder of sports agency Dark Horses, which pro­moted the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s Heads Up cam­paign with the Duke of Cam­bridge, said: “This is rugby’s first ma­jor scan­dal, so it wouldn’t sur­prise me if brands got spooked. A lot of brands choose rugby not just be­cause it’s cheaper than sports such as foot­ball, but be­cause it doesn’t have the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions that can come with foot­ball – this changes that.”

Fred Nathan, a sport con­sul­tant at Alex Dono­hue PR, said it was “the most ter­ri­ble tim­ing imag­in­able for the Premier­ship”.

Premier­ship Rugby was con­tacted for com­ment.

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