By Alex Miller
25 November 2011
The beleaguered RFU has received a small measure of relief from its current troubles after major sponsor Nike – the England rugby kit supplier – confirmed to Sportingintelligence that it is “not planning to change anything as a result of the recent RFU activities”.
Those ‘activities’ include a shambolic World Cup that involved England captain Mike Tindall getting drunk at a ‘Mad Midget Weekender’, England making a limp exit, and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry.
As the RFU continues to reel from the ‘TwickerLeaks’ saga, in which documents detailing England’s embarrassing campaign were leaked to the media, under-pressure elite director of rugby Rob Andrew was forced to admit the governing body has hit ‘rock bottom’.
But despite Andrews’ admission and the RFU’s ongoing embarrassment, Nike intends to honour its £16m four-year deal, which ends in August 2012.
And though it is suspected that Nike could use the disarray in the English game to drive a renewal deal at a bargain price, the kit supplier has a history of staying loyal to sports stars in crisis.
According to sports sponsorship expert Neil Hopkins, director at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment said: “Nike will likely view its arrangement with the RFU over the full four-year agreement period and conclude there have been lot’s of good times and some bad times.
“There is no reason to expect them to walk away. After all, Nike didn’t walk away from Tiger Woods or Wayne Rooney when they were experiencing difficulties.
“The biggest concern for the RFU will be that Nike has plenty of leverage on price. The RFU may well find it tougher to sell or renew the deal, in what is already a tough market”.
Nike wouldn’t be drawn on a longer-term commitment beyond the current agreement. A Nike spokesman told Sportingintelligence: “We never comment on specific contract negotiations so we can’t say what the future holds for specific contracts”.