Premiership Rugby’s main sponsor, the US-headquartered insurer Gallagher, has called for the league to stage matches overseas in locations such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
English club rugby’s top competition has played two regular season games in the US, in 2016 and 2017, but the experiment has not been repeated.
“Let’s get a game in Singapore,” Gallagher’s chief marketing officer Christopher Mead told City A.M. last week, before the government announced its Plan B pandemic measures.
“Let’s get some games in other places so people can really see the top quality of what we have in this sport.
“I like the idea of us having training – and Covid-19 has had an impact on this – in places like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
“I like the internationalisation and globalisation of the sport, but we didn’t partner with Premiership Rugby and the teams in the hope that it would build the game in America.
“The benefit of the Premiership is having deals with international markets; international TV markets have been great for us. I get to watch every single game when I’m here in the US.”
Gallagher renewed its prized sponsorship deal with Premiership Rugby last month, extending a partnership established in 2018.
Since then, the league has undergone major changes: introducing temporary ring fencing and making plans for a 14th side to join; significant investment from CVC Capital Partners; and losing a terrestrial television deal with Channel 5 without yet finding a replacement.
The insurer also has interests in the Australian national rugby team, Major League Soccer’s Houston Astros and baseball side Chicago Cubs, with whom it shares a hometown.
“It [the Premiership] is a prized possession, it is the cornerstone of our overall branding and marketing efforts,” Mead added.
“It’s the first one we did as one of the world’s largest financial services companies. We were the quiet broker, we didn’t spend a lot.
“And the reason this one was so appealing to us was because it became an opportunity for us to let people know who Gallagher was.”
The Premiership has found itself dragged into controversy over former champions Exeter Chiefs and their branding which some, including the National Congress of American Indians, say is offensive.
“I’m not going to comment on that. This is a question that has run through sport in the US and Australia,” Mead said.
“We have full trust and one of the reasons that we really feel strongly about the executive leadership team and the board of directors that surround the sport of rugby is that they will work through these seeming issues, and we will support them.”
While Sunday’s Formula 1 race and Emma Raducanu’s US Open tennis final found their way onto terrestrial television, the Premiership remains unavailable on free-to-air channels, even in highlight form.
Though it is understood that Premiership Rugby is actively looking for a new partner, and there has been talk of a pay-per-view platform, they are yet to find one – reducing Gallagher’s exposure.
“We just want them to have the right deal,” Mead said. “I am not a media expert, I barely understand how to turn my own TV on now. It’s crazy.
“As many people can see it, the better as far as I am concerned, and not just because of our brand but because it’s a great sport with really great people that I want everyone to experience.”
Pressed on whether, for example, the showpiece Big Game at Twickenham between Harlequins and Northampton Saints on 27 December would be an ideal fixture to showcase on free-to-air, Mead conceded: “Of course.”