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EPCR in no rush to add to Heineken deal

European Professional Club Rugby, the new operating body for the continent’s premier rugby union club competitions, could wait until the beginning of next season to fill its remaining four commercial partner slots after unveiling beer brand Heineken yesterday (Monday).

Heineken was confirmed as the first founding partner for the EPCR Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions under a deal running through the 2017-18 season, but the organisation’s board director Paul McNaughton said that there is no rush to bring in further companies unless its valuation for the sponsorship is met.

“On the commercial front, we could have four or five done now, but at a much lower value than we ascribe to those sponsor slots. So, we’re not being smart, but we’re trying to play the long game here,” McNaughton said at the EPCR launch in Dublin, Ireland.

“When you sign a deal, you’re signing up for four years and we want to get the best deal for the competition.”

Sportswear company Canterbury of New Zealand has been confirmed as an official supplier, but McNaughton rejected suggestions that there is a significant gap between the price quoted by EPCR and the sums being offered to join Heineken on the roster – insisting projections had never accounted for having a full set of sponsors by the start of the current campaign.

“If there was pressure on us to get it done in a month or two, to get it all done before the tournaments start, I suspect you’re giving an advantage [to the potential sponsor], in commercial terms,” he added.

“We knew as soon as we started as an executive committee last May that it was very unlikely to get five sponsors on. We may have a couple of additional (sponsors) by Christmas, but I would project that we will have the five on before the beginning of next season, at the right value.”