The Offload: Mercedes’ Kingspan sponsorship opens up debate over Ulster connection

Grenfell United campaigning to get province to drop deal with building materials company

 

It’s not often I agree with Michael Gove, well never really. Even still, it’s hard to argue with the UK’s secretary of state for levelling up after he lent his weight behind calls for Mercedes F1 to rethink their new sponsorship deal with Kingspan. The Irish building materials company has been accused of providing combustible material that contributed to the rate of spread of a fire that tragically claimed 72 lives at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017.

The ongoing inquiry into the tragedy has revealed a number of shocking details. In December 2020, Kingspan’s former managing director Peter Wilson stood down after it emerged that the firm used out of date fire tests to market materials. Communications between company employees seem to suggest awareness of these issues and a lack of resultant action.

It’s not a good look for Kingspan or Mercedes, but what Gove and the other politicians who have gotten involved have forgotten to mention is Kingspan’s sponsorship of Ulster. It wouldn’t be the first time British leaders have displayed their ignorance of goings on in the North, but it seems mind-boggling that no one in the House of Commons noticed that there is a sporting arena in Belfast called the Kingspan Stadium.

Grenfell United, a campaign organisation made up of victims and survivors of the fire, confirmed to The Irish Times that no political support has ever been forthcoming in their campaign to get Ulster also to stop platforming Kingspan.

Questions need to be asked of the province. In January of this year Grenfell United wrote to the Belfast-based side asking them to sever ties with their title sponsor. According to Grenfell United, Ulster’s response – which did not come until March, over a month later – cited the length of their relationship with Kingspan (going back to 1999) and legal problems with providing any comment or making a decision while the inquiry is still ongoing.

Ulster appear set to wait until a final decision on accountability from the inquiry before making a decision on their sponsor. Grenfell United though do not expect a definitive outcome until 2023. Given the shocking details that have already come out, playing in jerseys with Kingspan emblazoned on them for the next 18 months/two years is beyond problematic.

Ulster did not respond to a comment request on this matter.

Peat shunts back in the pack as Railway steam on

After signing off from international rugby last weekend with a try-scoring Barbarians appearance, it was back to AIL action for now former Ireland prop Lindsay Peat.

It appears as if the ‘former’ tag might apply to her positional status as well as her international career. In returning to AIL action this weekend for Railway Union, Peat packed down at number eight instead of in her usual frontrow slot against Galwegians.

Railway Union’s Lindsay Peat makes a break during the Energia All-Ireland Women’s League Division One match against Galwegians at Willow Lodge. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Railway Union’s Lindsay Peat makes a break during the Energia All-Ireland Women’s League Division One match against Galwegians at Willow Lodge. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Not that the different number on her back appeared to make much of a difference. Peat added to a try last weekend at Twickenham by crossing the whitewash twice to secure a brace at Park Avenue. Railway secured a dominant 72-0 win to stay level on points with UL Bohs at the top of the standings.

Peat wouldn’t be the first high-profile Irish frontrow to change position this season (think Andrew Porter and Cian Healy), but no shift has been as dramatic as this one from the front of the scrum to the back.

It remains to be seen if it is a long-term change, if Peat will spend her international retirement in the backrow in the AIL. If so, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world to get her in a position where she can get through more carrying work at club level.

One to keep an eye on with one regular round of league games to go before the playoffs in January.

Quote of the week

“As we grow as a team you go down 14 points, you still got to have belief, to know you can come back, even though it’s Leinster. And I question whether we had that belief . . . That’s part of our own fortitude that we’ve got to continue to grow.” – Connacht coach Andy Friend after his side surrendered an early lead in a 47-19 defeat to Leinster at the RDS. Strange that Connacht would lack belief after their last visit to D4 resulted in them snapping Leinster’s 26-match unbeaten league record.

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