EPCR signs up FT as official supporter ahead of new season
By Callum Murray
European Professional Club Rugby, the Switzerland-based organiser of European rugby union club competitions, today announced that it has signed up the Financial Times newspaper as a third-tier official supporter of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for the next four years.
The announcement came ahead of the opening matches this Friday of the 2018-19 seasons of the two competitions.
The UK-based FT joins Gilbert, the rugby ball supplier, as an official supporter of the competitions, one tier below the level of official partner, presently occupied by Tissot, the Swiss watch manufacturer, which itself sits below Heineken, the Champions Cup title sponsor.
A title sponsor for the Challenge Cup is still being sought.
Two media partners, the French newspaper Midi Olympique and radio station RMC, have also been signed up, and further media partners are being sought in the UK and Ireland.
It is understood that among the benefits that the FT, which is owned by Japan’s Nikkei, will receive as an official supporter is exposure via LED boards at stadia from the third round onwards, giving it an advantage over the media partners.
Simon Halliday, chairman of EPCR, said: “The Financial Times is renowned for its authority, integrity and accuracy, perfectly embodying the values that we have for our rugby tournaments. Both the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have seen significant developments in recent seasons and this deal with such an ambitious and dynamic title acknowledges the top-class sport that entertains fans around the world.”
Earlier this year, Heineken, the Dutch beer brewer, announced it would return as the title sponsor of the top-tier Champions Cup in a four-year deal starting this season.
Heineken had been the sole title sponsor of the competition’s predecessor, known simply as the Heineken Cup, but was reduced to the status of an official partner when the European club competitions were revamped, under the auspices of EPCR, ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.
ECPR had originally planned a reformed commercial structure based on that of soccer’s Uefa Champions League, which does not have a main partner, with up to six sponsors at the same level, but a challenging economic environment for rugby prompted a change of tack.
Earlier this week it emerged that Carsten Couchouron, the experienced sports marketing executive, is leaving his role as marketing and commercial director of EPCR, which has already begun the search for his successor, appointing headhunters Odgers Berndtson to lead the recruitment process.
The successful candidate will be tasked with further boosting the sponsorship portfolio.