Reports of €50m Vodafone deal 'totally off the wall,' says IRFU chief

However, Philip Browne did say the IRFU has a new lead sponsor lined up for 2016.

IRFU CHIEF EXECUTIVE Philip Browne says reports of the union having signed a €50 million sponsorship deal with Vodafone are “totally off the wall.”

Reports last month suggested that the IRFU had penned a 10-year deal with mobile phone operator Vodafone worth €5 million per annum, replacing current sponsors Three after the 2016 Six Nations.

Jamie Heaslip stands for the National Anthem Ireland's jerseys current carry the Three logo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Speaking at yesterday evening’s IRFU annual council meeting at the Aviva Stadium, Browne did admit that a new sponsor has been lined up to replace Three after next year’s Six Nations, although he said the figures involved are nowhere near the sums reported.

While laughing off the reported figures, Browne did not deny that Vodafone is in line to be Ireland’s next sponsor.

“The situation in relation to sponsorship is that we have an excellent sponsorship in place with Three, which runs until the end of this coming season, effectively the end of the (2016) Six Nations championship,” said Browne.

“We’re working very closely with Three and their people in relation to the World Cup and in relation to the Six Nations.

The answer in relation to sponsorship is that, yes, we have another sponsor in place lined up to take over. I’m not at liberty to say who they are.

“One thing I can say is that the figures that were bandied about in the media of €50m are so totally off the wall that I don’t know where they came from.”

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While Browne and the IRFU remain tightlipped on the value of the new sponsorship deal – which is indeed understood to be with Vodafone – the chief executive underlined that it is “a fraction” of the initially reported €50m.

Browne also stressed that reports of a 10-year deal with the new sponsor were wide of the mark, particularly with the IRFU having previously worked in five-year cycles with their sponsors.

The IRFU signed their current sponsorship deal with 02 Ireland in 2011, before Three’s parent company Hutchison Whampoa purchased O2 last year and the Three logo was subsequently placed on the front of Ireland’s jerseys.

O2 initially came onboard as lead sponsors in 2006, and the current deal with O2/Three was worth between €13m and €14m to the IRFU.

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