The Rugby Australia (RA) governing body has been dealt another commercial blow with retailer Harvey Norman ending its sponsorship of Super Rugby Pacific, the southern hemisphere’s premier rugby union club competition.
The company’s chairperson Gerry Harvey confirmed the decision on Thursday (November 22) and outlined its plans to focus on other sports sponsorships.
Harvey Norman has served as the naming rights partner for Super Rugby for the past three years.
Harvey told the Sydney Morning Herald: "What we do is, we do whatever sport for a while; we don't necessarily hang on to it forever.
"So, we move around on different sports so we're very heavy into sport advertising that we don't necessarily stay with the one sport forever.
"We think 'Oh we've given that a good go, then we'll go on to the next one'. In all cases, we stop at some stage."
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Harvey Norman has served as the naming rights partner to all Super Rugby competitions in Australia, including Super Rugby Pacific, Super Rugby AU, and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
The Australia-based retailer also previously sponsored domestic rugby league's iconic State of Origin series.
Harvey Norman's three-year agreement came at a crucial moment for RA as the sport was struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Past title sponsors of Super Rugby include telecoms giant Vodafone, international investment bank Investec, and Sydney-based brewery Tooheys.
RA told ESPN it is “currently in market and actively involved in discussions for a replacement.”
Harvey Norman’s decision not to renew its title sponsorship comes soon after it emerged that trading and investing platform eToro will let its commercial deal with the governing body expire at the end of this year.
RA and eToro had come together for the current deal in May 2021, with the brand becoming the naming rights partner for all home test matches in Australia, and also a sponsor of the men’s national rugby union side, the Wallabies.
As part of that element of the tie-up, the eToro logo has been featured on all branding associated with the team.
Harvey Norman’s announcement also comes in the same week that Hamish McLennan was ousted as RA chair and replaced by former player Daniel Herbert.
Following a late-night meeting last Sunday (November 19), McLennan was voted out as chair and then resigned from the board.
McLennan hit out at the decision, insisting there was a “smear campaign” against him to relinquish his leadership role.
He had come under increasing pressure in the days before the decision, with six Australian state member unions demanding his resignation. Up until an emergency board meeting on Sunday, he resisted this attempted push but has now left the board entirely, opting not to carry on as a director.
The six unions – from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia – had co-written a letter to the RA board late last week, saying they had lost faith in McLennan, who had been chair since May 2020.
This followed the men’s national team’s poor performance at the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France across September and October, in which they failed to make it past the group stage. Coach Eddie Jones, whom McLennan had pushed for during the selection process, has now walked away from the job.