Rugby’s Champions Cup to follow Champions League sponsor model

The European Rugby Champions Cup, a new rugby union competition that has been introduced to replace the Heineken Cup, is set to follow the same sponsorship model that has proved successful for the Uefa Champions League club football tournament.

The new competition will involve 20 teams from the continent’s six main rugby-playing nations. The Reuters news agency said that instead of having a title sponsor like the Heineken Cup, the new tournament will seek to secure a group of backers in an attempt to emulate a model that has proved lucrative for football’s Champions League.

Dominic Hayes, commercial director of England’s Premiership Rugby, said organisers are hoping to attract six companies in order to maximise income. “We already know that there is strong interest from a number of brands who see the huge value in a partnership with elite European club rugby,” Hayes said. “We believe that there is enormous potential to drive the commercial value of the competitions.”

Dutch brewer Heineken, which was involved with the existing tournament since its launch in 1995, said it was disappointed at the competition’s demise but did not rule out sponsoring the Champions Cup. Heineken is already one of the eight main corporate partners of football’s Champions League.

Heineken spokesman John Clarke said: “When we are approached by the new competition's organisers, we will evaluate sponsorship proposals, and then make a decision on whether or not to continue our association with European club rugby.”
European rugby’s stakeholders on Thursday evening agreed terms on three new cross-border competitions that will replace the existing Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments from the 2014-15 season.

Bringing an end to a near two-year saga concerning the future of the European game the new competitions will be called the Champions Cup, the Challenge Cup and the Qualifying Competition. An association will be established in Switzerland called European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR). This body will be responsible for organising and managing the competitions.