Scottish Rugby has confirmed that it has agreed to a new, three-year contract extension to its sponsorship partnership with British Telecom until 2021. The new deal will see BT retain the naming rights for the Murrayfield Stadium, as well as the primary shirt sponsors of the Scottish national side and the Scottish sevens team. There will be, however, changes to the domestic sponsorship arrangement between Scottish Rugby and BT, with the Scottish Rugby confirming a new sponsor will be sought to front its league championship and cups.
Scottish Rugby’s relationship with BT dates back to 2014 when the telecoms giant paid up to £20m as part of an initial four-year sponsorship arrangement. The company’s continued investment in rugby north of the border will ensure that the Scottish Rugby can invest record amounts of money into the sport.
Although no official numbers have been touted regarding the new deal, it’s reported in the Scottish press that senior officials within the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) are very pleased with the extension, particularly given the testing economic conditions inside and outside the sport.
Dominic McKay, chief operating officer of SRU, said: “This new deal will enable Scottish Rugby to continue to move forward on and off the pitch and clearly demonstrates we are open for business, with a fantastic product we are very proud of.”
“BT’s distinctive logo will continue to be displayed on the front of Scotland rugby shirts across the world, in the Six Nations Championship, as well as the summer and autumn test matches,” a statement from the SRU said.
The 2018 Six Nations Championship will be kicked off by Scotland on Saturday 3 February with a trip to the Principality Stadium to face Wales. The match will be Gregor Townsend’s first Six Nations encounter as a head coach after he replaced Kiwi Vern Cotter. Townsend took charge of Scotland’s summer tour earlier this year, which saw them nearly finish unbeaten with the only slip-up a surprise 27-22 defeat to Fiji in June.
Townsend remains one of Scotland’s most lauded rugby players of modern times with 82 caps to his name, and many within the SRU hope that he can make the necessary tweaks required to make Scotland a force once again. In fact, Scotland wasn’t far away from challenging for the 2017 Six Nations Championship. Had they managed to upset the applecart and defeat England at Twickenham in March, Scotland would have been within a shout of the championship for the first time since a last-gasp victory over Wales in 1999 when it was still a Five Nations competition.
Ironically, Townsend was part of that successful side 18 years ago and bookmakers seem to think that they are still some way from being considered true contenders for the championship in 2018, with BetStars placing them at 16/1 fifth-favourites ahead of Italy at 1000/1. Much of Scotland’s hopes rest on the talismanic captain Greig Laidlaw. But with him looking likely to miss the autumn internationals in November, Townsend’s plans have most certainly been upset as they prepare for their final test matches before the trip to Cardiff in early February.