Investec, the international investment bank, has been named the new title sponsor of rugby union’s top-tier European Champions Cup club competition in a five-year deal struck with the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) governing body.

The agreement, brokered by UK-based sports marketing agency Pitch International, ends Dutch brewing giant Heineken’s long-standing partnership with the competition, which started in 1995, and will see the competition renamed the ‘Investec Champions Cup’ from the start of the upcoming 2023-24 season.

The move thus represents a significant blow for Heineken.

The 2023-24 Champions Cup is due to begin in early December featuring clubs from England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and South Africa, which compete in England’s Premiership Rugby, France’s Top 14, and the United Rugby Championship.

South African entrants were welcomed for the first time last season.

EPCR chairman Dominic McKay said: “Following a record-breaking season for EPCR with over 1.3 million fans returning to stadiums and getting behind their clubs across the seven countries, in addition to further millions tuning in to our broadcasters worldwide, it’s a brilliant time to welcome Investec into our growing partner family with such positivity surrounding the Investec Champions Cup and EPCR.

“Our combined passion for the game will enable us to deliver our new ambitious strategy for the Investec Champions Cup as we seek to grow our audiences further around the world in an intentional and sustainable way.”

The EPCR said along with title sponsorship rights, Investec will work with the governing body on progressing towards a carbon-neutral tournament, advancing the women’s game, and developing innovative financial solutions and wellness programs tailored to players.

The partnership marks Investec’s return to rugby after previously sponsoring governing body England Rugby, national club competition Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Rugby Championship tournament for Southern Hemisphere national teams, and South Africa’s International Rugby Academy.

The bank’s current sports sponsorship portfolio includes title rights to golf’s South African Open Championship and the South African Women’s Open, as well as sponsorship deals with the women’s international hockey teams of Great Britain & England and South Africa.

Abey Mokgwatsane, Investec's chief marketing officer, said: We are proud to sponsor the world’s premier club rugby competition. The Investec Champions Cup embodies out-of-the-ordinary sporting achievement and is a fantastic platform to further innovate in diversity, sustainability, and financial solutions.”

The new season sees a new format for the competition, which will see the 24 competing teams split into four pools of six rather than the previous two 12-team groups. Each of the four pools features two teams from the United Rugby Championship, two teams from the English Premiership, and two teams from the Top 14.