England Rugby, All Blacks Battle For Piece Of The Sport's Financial Pie
England and the New Zealand All Blacks rugby went head-to-head at Twickenham on Saturday, but their commercial teams will be waging a battle "just as intense and at times controversial: the fight to bring more money into rugby," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. With an eye on the 2015 World Cup in England, the Rugby Football Union has "embarked on a sweeping modernisation of Twickenham stadium, added new sponsors and looked at new ways of growing merchandising revenues." The New Zealand Rugby Union has also "stepped up its commercial operations." In October, it announced a five-year deal worth about £5M ($8M) a year with insurance company AIG that puts its logo on the "hallowed All Black strip." Some feel this is "tantamount to selling the soul of rugby’s most feared and venerable team." The RFU has also "taken plenty of flak" after forsaking England’s traditional white strip for a purple outfit against Australia last month. Commercialism "is not a straightforward sell" in the rugby world, where "traditions are strong and values cherished." Both unions are "aware of the perils of alienating their core audiences while trying to engage new ones." RFU Chief Commercial Officer Sophie Goldschmidt said, “The balance is very important to us." NZRU CEO Steve Tew said, “Most people sat back and looked at the AIG deal in context. They know we can’t remain competitive and build the game unless you’re driving some revenue” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/30).