The new partnership between New Zealand Rugby, the country’s governing body for rugby union, and the industrial and chemicals giant Ineos has been signed off.
The six-year deal, reported to be worth up to NZ$8 million ($5.6 million) a year, will see the Ineos brand displayed on the playing shorts and training tops of the country's national teams.
Last month, the environmental campaign group Greenpeace spoke out against the proposed deal, suggesting it was an exercise in 'greenwashing' for Ineos.
It also launched a petition calling on NZR to walk away from the deal that has since been signed by over 13,000 people.
Reacting to the news today, Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said: “In the thick of the climate crisis, it’s gutting to see New Zealand Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with an oil and gas polluting conglomerate like Ineos that is responsible for driving us deeper into the climate crisis and fouling the oceans with plastic pollution.”
According to the Plastic Waste Makers Index compiled by the Minderoo Foundation philanthropic organisation, UK-based Ineos is the 13th biggest producer of single-use plastics in the world.
Ineos becomes the official performance partner of NZR’s seven 'Teams in Black' — the All Blacks, Black Ferns, All Blacks Sevens, Black Ferns Sevens, Māori All Blacks, All Blacks XV and All Blacks Under-20.
In addition, the Teams in Black will join the Ineos sport performance group, which “will bring together some of sport’s best people and teams to tackle the greatest sporting challenges, through technology and human performance” when it launches later this year.
Other teams with which Ineos has partners include the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 motor racing team, the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team, Team UK sailing and soccer clubs OGC Nice in France's Ligue 1 and FC Lausanne-Sport in the Swiss Super League.
Mark Robinson, the chief executive of NZR, said: “To partner with Ineos and be part of such a unique and diverse global sports performance group is an exciting new venture. We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with Ineos Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world.”
Addressing the environmental concerns, he said: “Ineos will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement.”
Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Robinson said of the decision to go ahead with the partnership: “We know that rugby in this country attracts a lot of scrutiny and any major decision we make comes with a fair degree of accountability as well. So, we expect that, we welcome it, we think it's healthy for the game and for discussions within New Zealand and certainly we're really comfortable with the due diligence we've done.”
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of Ineos, added: “We’re delighted to partner with the All Blacks. They have consistently shown the grit and determination needed to perform at the highest level of sport and there will be a lot that we can learn from them.”
The deal will help to address NZR’s financial losses over the past two years of NZ$34 million ($24.3 million) in 2020 and $7.4 million in 2019.
NZR is currently looking to sell a 12.5 per cent stake in a proposed new commercial business to the US private equity firm Silver Lake.