The new United Rugby Championship has this morning unveiled its first major commercial sponsorship with African communications company Vodacom taking on the South African commercial rights.

Tournament organisers have confirmed that “this does not apply to the Northern span of the League.”

Guinness was the naming rights partner of the old PRO14 tournament but stepped away at the end of its contract ahead of the launch of the new expanded format.

Vodacom’s branding indicates the obvious association with Vodafone as a major partner of Irish Rugby but there is no confirmation one way or the other whether that is relevant to the European sponsorship rights.

Launch events are taking place later today and this week in different jurisdictions, and we will bring you all the news and insight as it emerges.

The United Rugby Championship kicks off on the 24th of September and will feature 16 teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa, battling it out over 144 matches to reach the eight-team playoffs in a season that will extend over eight months until the final in June.

Vodacom is continuing their long association with top-flight South African franchise rugby in the new-look competition that has secured major free to air television here on RTÉ and TG4 and will also have further announcements in that area this week.

“The United Rugby Championship heralds an exciting new era for South African rugby that will bring us closer to our friends in the northern hemisphere, and we’re delighted to confirm our long-standing partner, Vodacom, as the title sponsor in the southern hemisphere,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“This is an exciting new venture and promises to deliver international club rugby of the highest standard that will benefit South African rugby in the long run and it was typical of Vodacom’s vision that they didn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity to partner with us.”

Bold Step

“We’ve been exposed to club rugby from the north for a while now, but the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is a bold step into a brand-new era of franchise rugby for South Africa, in a competition that will reshape the global game.”

“The possibilities for the future reflect a gear shift for rugby in South Africa as well as on the north-south axis. As we’ve seen with the recent British & Irish Lions tour, our teams will be facing some of the best players in the world, testing their skills against some of the strongest club sides and going toe-to-toe with master tacticians on a weekly basis.”

“Since 1996, when our involvement with Vodacom Super Rugby began, top-flight rugby featuring the best teams with the world’s best players has been ingrained into Vodacom’s DNA,” added Michelle van Eyden, Head of Sponsorship at Vodacom.

“As world rugby moved from the amateur to professional era and then into a time of incredible global growth, Vodacom has supported the game’s journey at every step.”

“The Vodacom United Rugby Championship is yet another evolution of our proud association with the very best that rugby has to offer, and we look forward to again providing the platform upon which a new era of north-south competition can set a new benchmark in excellence for the game.”

“We have the best European clubs in our league, and they as well as their fans are all very aware that we’re now bringing in the South African teams that basically feed the world champion Springboks,” said United Rugby Championship CEO Martin Anayi.

“They will be bringing their own brand of big players, strong runner and high-intensity rugby and there is tremendous excitement about that.”

“We have a team like Leinster who have been European champions so many times, and they were foremost in campaigning for the South African teams to join so that it can challenge them and continue to raise the overall standard.”


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