Harvey Norman end Super Rugby sponsorship in fresh blow for Rugby Australia
Rugby Australia (RA) is facing another setback on the commercial front after retail giant Harvey Norman announced the conclusion of its sponsorship of Super Rugby Pacific.
Super Rugby Pacific is the premier rugby union club competition in the southern hemisphere and features five Australian franchises.
Harvey Norman’s chairperson, Gerry Harvey, confirmed the decision on November 22, citing the company’s strategy to diversify its sports sponsorships.
“What we do is, we do whatever sport for a while; we don’t necessarily hang on to it forever,” Harvey said.
“So, we move around on different sports so we’re very heavy into sport advertising that we don’t necessarily stay with the one sport forever.
“We think, ‘Oh we’ve given that a good go, then we’ll go on to the next one’. In all cases, we stop at some stage.”
Harvey Norman had played a pivotal role as the naming rights partner for all Super Rugby competitions in Australia, including Super Rugby Pacific, Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. The company has previously sponsored the iconic State of Origin rugby league series.
The conclusion of Harvey Norman’s three-year agreement adds to the challenges faced by RA, which had entered into the sponsorship during a critical period when the sport was grappling with financial difficulties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
While RA is actively seeking a replacement and engaging in discussions, the departure of Harvey Norman follows closely on the heels of eToro’s decision to let its commercial deal with RA expire at the end of the year. eToro had been the naming rights partner for home Test matches in Australia and a sponsor of the men’s national rugby union team, the Wallabies.
RA told ESPN it is “currently in market and actively involved in discussions for a replacement.”
This development coincides with the recent leadership change at RA, with former Wallabies great Daniel Herbert replacing ousted chair Hamish McLennan. McLennan resigned following a vote to remove him as chair, a move he attributed to a “smear campaign” against him. The decision came amid increased pressure and a loss of faith in McLennan’s leadership, with six state member unions demanding his resignation.
The challenges for RA are further compounded by the underwhelming performance of the men’s national team at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, where they failed to advance beyond the group stage.
Coach Eddie Jones, strongly supported by McLennan during the selection process, has also stepped down from his role. RA now faces the dual task of securing new sponsors and navigating the aftermath of leadership changes in a bid to regain stability and momentum.