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November, 2023

Harvey Norman exits Rugby Australia sponsorship, leaving second major partner gap

Rugby Australia is facing a significant commercial challenge as Harvey Norman, the naming rights sponsor of the Super Rugby competition since 2021, has decided to withdraw its sponsorship.

This move leaves a second major gap in the sporting code’s sponsorship ranks in recent weeks, following the exit of eToro, the Wallabies test naming rights partner.

Initial media reports suggested Harvey Norman’s decision to part ways with Rugby Australia was due to the departure of Rugby chief, Hamish McLennan, who was ousted from the position on 18 November. However, Harvey Norman chair, Gerry Harvey, refuted these suggestions in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“What we do is, we do whatever sport for a while; we don’t necessarily hang on to it forever. 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. You know 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 was quoted as saying.

A Rugby Australia spokesperson confirmed the governing body is now actively in conversations to find a replacement sponsor.

“Rugby Australia (RA) wishes to thank Harvey Norman for its enthusiastic support of Rugby over the last three years. RA is currently in market and actively involved in discussions for a replacement,” the spokesperson said.

On 2 November, Rugby Australia announced it would commence an external review into the Wallabies 2023 season and performance environment, including the Rugby World Cup, by a three-member panel including Andrea Slack and Justin Jarrison, as well as industry expert, Darlene Harrison. The review comes after Australia had its World Cup campaign in its history.

“As Rugby fans, we were all disappointed in the results at the World Cup – the performance was not good enough for a proud Rugby nation like ours,” said Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh, when making the announcement. “The Wallabies have a proud history as one of Australia’s most loved sporting teams, and it is our responsibility as custodians to continually seek to improve performance and deliver a world-class program.”

Rugby Australia reported a record $27.1 million deficit in 2020, but managed to claw back to a surplus of $8.2 million in 2022, largely due to a 22 per cent rise in revenue from corporate sponsorships. In total, Rugby Australia reported sponsorship revenue of $29.07 million in FY22.

The eight remaining key sponsors of Rugby Australia are Cadbury Mondelez, Santos, Land Rover, ISPS Handa, RM Williams, Mitsubishi Estate, Buildcorp and Asics.