Chiefs' sponsor Gallagher has the rights stuff

CASH INJECTION: Chiefs chairman Dallas Fisher.
CASH INJECTION: Chiefs chairman Dallas Fisher.

The Chiefs have sold team naming rights for the first time.

The Gallagher Group has been a long-time sponsor of the two-times champion Super Rugby team and yesterday announced they were upping their contribution significantly by an unspecified amount in two years' time.

As part of the announcement that a seven-year licence to run the organisation had been granted by New Zealand Rugby to a group known as the Chiefs Rugby Club, it was also revealed that the iconic Hamilton company would become principal partner and naming rights and front-of-jersey sponsor from 2016.

At that time the Chiefs will formally become the Gallagher Chiefs.

Group chief executive and chairman, Sir William Gallagher, said he used to be a rugby player back in the amateur era and the company had always had a keen involvement in backing Chiefs and Waikato rugby.

"The standard is phenomenally different to what it was when rugby was amateur and the way the game is played is very entertaining, while the professionalism is outstanding," he said.

The worldwide publicity to be gained for the company through such high profile involvement with the Chiefs justified the expenditure.

"We're very big in Ireland and South Africa and even in Kenya we had people there who thought we were a small Kenyan company until they saw our name around one of the Chiefs games.

"So there certainly are benefits in being involved and apart from that it's a good cause anyway.

"We've always been there in the background and we also supported the Waikato Stadium when Brian Perry was getting that together so the long-term support is there and this is stepping it up, but that's one of the benefits of being successful and we can afford to do it."

The delay until 2016 is due to the existing national front-of-jersey sponsorship deal for all five Kiwi franchises not due to end until the end of the 2015 season. Individual franchises then have been given the green light to seek their own sponsors to display there.

The Chiefs Rugby Club, to which the licence to operate the Chiefs has been granted, comprises 50 per cent provincial rugby unions, including newcomers Taranaki, and 50 per cent private investors, bringing an extra $3.3 million capital investment with them.

Chiefs chairman Dallas Fisher said the injection of capital would be used to improve indoor training facilities with new gym equipment, some of which has already been installed, enhance the outdoor training facilities where a covered training field is planned over the next six months, invest in new technology in the injury management and rehabilitation field including a new hypoxic or altitude training apparatus and investment in the Chiefs' commercial brand and business growth.

An establishment board has been set up to appoint the new board of seven members, which will include five independent directors and two investor appointees. The process is expected to take two months.

The move by the Taranaki union from the Hurricanes to the Chiefs brings nearly 30 per cent of the new capital investment and as a result New Plymouth will host two Chiefs home games in each of the next two seasons.

There is no firm deal in regard to 2016 home games and beyond due to the uncertainty of the likely make-up of the Super Rugby competition from that year on when a new broadcasting deal will be negotiated and the format revisited.

Next year's home games to be played in New Plymouth will be against the Blues on Friday, May 9, and the Waratahs three weeks later on Saturday, May 31.

Waikato Stadium will host the other six home games, Pukekohe and Mt Maunganui the venues to miss out this time.

Waikato Times