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Qantas to continue as Rugby Australia naming partner at significant discount

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Australia airline Qantas is set to renew its shirt sponsorship deal with Rugby Australia at a discounted price of about A$3m (€1.8m/$2m) per year for the next two seasons. 

SportBusiness understands that the previous five-year deal, from 2015 to 2019, was worth about A$5m per year, including value in kind, and that the new deal was agreed after lengthy talks between the two organisations. 

The renewal took place in a challenging sales environment for Rugby Australia based on the Wallabies’ disappointing performances over the last two years and the negative press around Australian Rugby based on the dispute between the union and star player Israel Folau. As a consequence, Qantas was able to negotiate the price down. 

In May 2018, Folau posted homophobic comments on social media, which resulted in the termination of his Rugby Australia contract in April 2019. Folau subsequently appealed against the decision and called for compensation, which was settled confidentially at the end of last year. 

During the dispute, Qantas warned the federation that “we don’t sponsor something to get involved in controversy”, but Qantas boss Alan Joyce later said he was happy with how Rugby Australia had handled the Folau affair.  

It is understood that discussions included the possibility of Qantas coming off the naming rights and front of jersey assets altogether – a scenario that Rugby Australia was keen to avoid given the impact on public perception. 

The federation has launched a number on initiatives to restore stability under chief executive Raelene Castle, who took over the role in December 2017. This includes the consolidation of broadcast rights across national team, Super League and National Rugby Championship properties within one package. This will also allow sponsors to align with all levels of the rugby pyramid. 

Like the previous deal, Qantas will get the team naming rights and main shirt rights to the Wallabies men’s national team, as well as the men’s and women’s sevens teams. The women’s XV is branded by construction services company Buildcorp. 

Along with traditional visibility assets around the shirts and stadium signage, it is thought Qantas was interested in unique content that can be distributed across both organisations’ digital platforms.