Guinness has been announced as the new title sponsors of the English Premiership.
Premier Rugby has announced that it has signed a four-year agreement with Diageo Great Britain for GUINNESS beer to become the new title sponsors of the world's leading domestic rugby union competition.
The agreement is valued at over £20m, reflecting the growth of the top-flight club game in England. The Zurich Premiership will be renamed at the end of the current season and will become The GUINNESS Premiership for the start of the 2005/2006 season.
Jon Varney, commercial director at Premier Rugby said: "Our partnership with GUINNESS is an exciting one and we look forward to working together in the coming months. To have a global brand with the stature of GUINNESS on board is a ringing endorsement of the success and growth of Premiership rugby in England."
Nick Robinson, GUINNESS marketing director said: "We are delighted to have signed this agreement with Premier Rugby to become title sponsor of The GUINNESS Premiership, the world's leading domestic rugby union competition, in what is the number two sport in the UK.
"We have a long and happy association with rugby in the UK, and rugby fans will find us a dedicated and responsible sponsor with a passionate and genuine interest in the game. Our aim is to work with the clubs to build excitement around the games themselves to enhance the fans' experience as much as possible.
"Zurich have made a major contribution to rugby during their tenure as sponsor and it is our intention to build on the great work that they have already done."
Howard Thomas, chief executive of Premier Rugby said: "I am delighted that we have agreed this deal with GUINNESS and look forward to working with them to grow the club game in England still further. On a personal note, I would like to thank Zurich for their invaluable support over the past seven years and we will be working together to ensure their final season is one that their long term commitment to club rugby in England deserves."
The new agreement enhances and extends the long association between domestic and international rugby and the GUINNESS brand, including its current status as the Official Beer of the 2005 British & Irish Lions, its sponsorship of Sky Sports rugby broadcasting and principal sponsor of London Irish RFC.
Further details on the GUINNESS sponsorship agreement will be announced after the conclusion of the current Zurich Premiership season and after the 2005 British & Irish Lions have returned from New Zealand.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).