Celtic Rugby’s CEO John Feehan positive as PRO12 loses main sponsor
Just as Sky Sports arrives as the primary broadcast partner, a new title sponsor will have to be unearthed as RaboDirect bank pull the plug
Captain Leo Cullen lifts the the RaboDirect PRO12 trophy after Leinster’s victory over Ulster in the RDS last May. photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
You would expect nothing less, but Celtic Rugby chief executive John Feehan yesterday put a positive spin on RaboDirect bank’s announcement that they would end their four-season sponsorship of the PRO12 a year early.
That means before next September, just as Sky Sports arrives as the primary broadcast partner, a new title sponsor will have to be unearthed.
Rabo is primarily an online Irish bank so the UK (Scotland and Wales) and Italian markets are of little interest.
“To be honest we deal with a lot of big companies all the time so that’s not really a huge issue for us,” said Feehan. “Obviously a whole lot of work will have to go into it now.
“We have got so big that only one country [IRELAND]was paying their wages, if you like. It was probably a bit big for them at the end of the day.”
Feehan, of course, is also the CEO of the Lions and Six Nations.
“It’s growing pains,” the Dubliner continued, “but in lots of ways it is good news. It is never nice to lose a very good partner but we are in a positive place”
The new sponsor will have to stump up a minimum seven-figure sum per annum to have their name and logo branded across the four-nation PRO12 league.
As Philip Browne recently said, in relation to 10-year tickets, the market will decide that.
“The partnership with the PRO12 has helped us achieve key business objectives,” said RaboDirect general manager Tim Bicknell.
Type of company
Feehan gave some indication of the type of company they will seek as new partners by noting the 12-year sponsorship of the Six Nations by Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC’s eight-year association with the Lions.
So, what next?
Feehan happily made the PRO12 pitch. “Every weekend in Britain and Ireland alone over half a million people watch a Rabo game. And it is growing. Our footfall through the turnstiles is up. Our digital impressions are up. For instances there was nearly a million Youtube clips looked at this year, and that’s a completely new avenue.
“The look and feel of the competition is much stronger now. We have a new name, new logo, new look. We have delivered for Rabo. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that well for them in the UK.”
We ask for the scoop. Feehan declines for the time being.
“We are looking for a sponsor that matches the prestige of the competition. It shouldn’t take too long,” he said.
From next season Sky will exclusively broadcast live PRO12 matches on Saturday afternoon having been outbid for the English rugby premiership by BT Sport.
It has yet to be agreed whether TG4, RTÉ or both terrestrial channels will continue to televise live PRO12 games.
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Pat Lam has named hooker Jason Harris-Wright as captain for today’s pre-season friendly in Newcastle. However, two-time Super 12-winning Chiefs captain Craig Clarke makes his debut at lock while Fionn Carr starts at fullback on his second coming from Leinster.
Lam will announce his permanent captain early next week.