Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis is to deliver the inaugural 'Game Changer' lecture which closes the opening day of Rugby Expo 2016 at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on Thursday 3 November.

Francis, who joined Sky Sports in 1999 and was appointed MD in 2009, is a highly experienced and respected sports media professional whose unique perspective on the relationship between sports and broadcasters has been forged on the front line of delivering live coverage as well as in the boardroom.

At Sky Sports, Francis oversees a broad portfolio of rugby union content that includes the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017, England and Ireland home Tests, all SANZAR rugby until the end of 2020, the HSBC Sevens World Series, the World Rugby U20 Championships, as well as matches from the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cups, the Guinness Pro 12 and the French Top 14. Sky Sports also shows a wide variety of women's rugby that has included the last two World Cups – including the 2014 edition won by England – and the 2015-16 Women's Premiership final.

Sky Sports also has exclusive live rights for rugby league's elite competition, the First Utility Super League, culminating in the showpiece Grand Final at Old Trafford, as well as the annual World Club Series, which pits the best of the Super League against the top clubs from the NRL in Australasia.

In the 'Game Changer' lecture Francis will focus on the role of broadcasters in the development of rugby in a fast-changing, multi-platform media universe. In addition to reflecting on how TV has impacted on the both Rugby Union and Rugby League, he will turn his attention to future trends and developments, flagging-up opportunities and challenges to be faced by governing bodies, clubs and the media companies themselves.

The 'Game Changer' Lecture has been introduced to the Rugby Expo programme to provide an annual platform for challenging and thought provoking input into the subjects critical to the continued development of a sport whose global footprint and commercial value has grown significantly in the professional era.

Rugby Expo is the largest B2B conference and exhibition focusing on professional and grassroots club rugby and the launch of the 'Game Changer' lecture marks Rugby Expo's move to The Ricoh Arena after five years at Twickenham. The venue is home to Premiership Rugby side Wasps, whose move to their new home has transformed approaches to rugby's traditional business model and helped reignite interest in the sport in Warwickshire and the surrounding area.

Incoming World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, one of the towering figures of English rugby and captain of the 1980 Gland Slam winning team, will deliver a wide-ranging opening keynote outlining his vision for the future of the sport.

Elsewhere on the Day 1 conference programme, Wasps CEO David Armstrong will be among the senior European club executives to take part in the Club Council, an interactive panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities faced by clubs operating in a highly competitive commercial and media environment. The session will address the relationship between clubs and international unions and the role of the leagues in promoting and sustaining the sport.

Speakers from Microsoft and digital sponsorship tracking specialists SnapRapid are the first to confirm their participation in a session, which focuses on the biggest issue in sports business, the digital commercialisation of sports, and how this can be applied to professional rugby.

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Scottish Rugby today toasted a new partnership with Eden Mill, Scotland's first single site distillery and brewery, which will see the drinks specialist become the governing body's first ever Official Gin Partner.

In addition to becoming the Official Gin Partner of Scottish Rugby, Eden Mill will also become the Official Gin of Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby, appearing and supporting the clubs throughout the season with on-site bars at games. Scottish Rugby Toasts First Official Gin Partner

The exciting four-year partnership will be officially unveiled to supporters at the professional clubs' home games this season and Scotland's opening Autumn Test match against Australia on Saturday 12 November at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 2.30pm).

For Eden Mill, the opportunity to work with these exciting global brands will enable it to provide rugby fans with an improved and interactive experience on game days.

The Scottish craft gin brand will be on site at all matches in the stadium grounds with a pop-up gin bar and Airstream trailer on match-days, offering a range of beverages for supporters, including their popular Love Gin, Oak Gin, Hop Gin and specialty gin cocktails.

Using locally-sourced ingredients and exporting to 15 countries, Eden Mill is leading the way with innovation in the booming Scottish gin industry, promoting Scotland's trades on a global scale, through a variety of channels and significant partnerships.

Eden Mill Founder and Co-Owner, Paul Miller, said: "This is a proud moment for Eden Mill and a great opportunity, which we are incredibly excited about.

"We look forward to being part of the growing success and popularity of the game at professional club and international level over the years to come."

Scottish Rugby Head of Marketing and Sponsorship, Toni Blackhurst, said: "We are delighted to welcome Eden Mill to our growing family of partners.

"Supporters are turning out at Scotland and professional club rugby matches in record numbers. New partnerships, like the one announced today, help us enhance the range of drinks available to fans enjoying a world-class day out at BT Murrayfield.

"We look forward to working with such an exciting young company like Eden Mill over the coming years."

The partnership will also include exclusive offers for fans, content and brand presence during matches, as well as interaction on the club's digital and social media platforms.

Leicester Tigers have agreed a new sponsorship with Mattioli Woods, one of the UK's leading financial management providers.

As an Official Sponsor of the Tigers, the East Stand at Welford Road will carry the Mattioli Woods name in time for the start of the 2016/17 season and the company will also have branding on the team's playing kit.

Formed in Leicestershire in 1991, Mattioli Woods now advises more than 6,000 clients on financial management and employee benefit services, with offices across England and Scotland.

Ian Mattioli, chief executive at Mattioli Woods, said: "We are very excited about this new strategic partnership with the Tigers. It is an excellent club, and their ambition and family values fit very well with our own.

"While being very active in terms of charity and sport, this is the first sponsorship deal of its kind that the company has struck with a British sports team."

Simon Cohen, Leicester Tigers chief executive, added: "We are delighted to welcome Mattioli Woods as a new partner of the club.

"As a business born in the city, they have grown significantly in their own markets and are now a prominent brand in financial management. We look forward to working closely with them in the new season."

Thatchers will feature on Bristol Rugby's home and away shirts, as well as Bristol Rugby Ladies' matchday kit.

From August 6th, football and rugby fans alike can enjoy Thatchers Gold, Haze and Dry on draught, throughout the 'new' Ashton Gate Stadium. Meanwhile, Thatchers will also become the official Man of the Match partner for the Premiership rugby side.

"Thatchers have been a long-term partner of Bristol Sport. We're pleased to see that relationship develop and extend to Bristol Rugby's iconic home and away shirts," Bristol Sport CEO Andrew Billingham said.

"With Bristol Rugby back in the top flight and the 'new' Ashton Gate Stadium on the brink of completion, it's a hugely exciting time for the club and our commercial partners."

Martin Thatcher, fourth generation cidermaker at Thatchers Cider, added: "The rugby club is a big part of Bristol's sporting fabric and we're pleased to share their long-awaited return to the Premiership.

"At Thatchers, we value our heritage and our customers, which is why we're delighted to bring our range of ciders to the passionate supporters of both Bristol Rugby and Bristol City at Ashton Gate."

Leicester Tigers are delighted to welcome Holland & Barrett as the club's new main sponsors.

Holland & Barrett is the UK's leading retailer of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. Their stores are a familiar sight in almost every major city and town across the UK.

Interest in natural food supplements has increased considerably in recent years and Holland & Barrett has always had a commitment to its customers to provide high quality products at value-for-money prices.

The company has been a prominent partner of the Tigers since September 2010 and will assume main sponsorship, including the front of the team shirt, for the start of 2016/17 as well as taking naming rights for the 10,000-seat North Stand.

Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen said: "Holland & Barrett have become major supporters of the club over the last six years and we are delighted to now welcome them as main partners.

"This is an exciting time for the professional game in England with a vibrant club competition, renewed European competitions and a national team that has just celebrated a Grand Slam and victorious tour of Australia this year.

"The Tigers always endeavour to be at the forefront of the game's development in this country and in Europe, and the strength of our commercial partnerships is fundamental to that.

"We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship with Holland & Barrett."

Peter Aldis, Holland & Barrett International's chief executive officer, said: "As a Tigers fan and Leicestershire resident, I'm excited and proud to support my local club.

"Holland & Barrett and the Tigers share a common goal in reaching peak health and fitness, and we look forward to fuelling the team and the fans towards a successful campaign."

Tue 5th July 16 :

Saracens Team-up with BLK

Aviva Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup winners Saracens are proud to announce a multi-million pound deal with BLK United Kingdom to provide on and off field playing and training kit.
The 'Men in Black' have agreed a five year partnership with BLK that covers Saracens, Saracens Women and all nine members of the Saracens Global Network.

The BLK product range has been developed to fulfil the needs of the modern athlete and supporter, from technical training, match day equipment and apparel to a superior lifestyle and supporter range. The emphasis is on design excellence, performance, durability and innovation.

Nearly 10,000 teams globally now wear BLK, including national sides such as the New Zealand Kiwis, French side Stade Toulousain, Fiji and USA Rugby as well as a myriad of marquee clubs. BLK United Kingdom has ambitious plans to work with high-profile teams across a range of sports and to launch a bespoke range of non-licenced sports fashion wear.

Ben Houchen, chief executive officer of BLK United Kingdom, said: "Saracens is one of the most high profile names in rugby union and after a stunning season we are delighted to be able to announce this partnership and welcome them into the BLK family alongside Welsh region Ospreys, England Rugby League, Scotland Rugby League and England Netball.

"BLK is one of the fastest growing sports apparel brands and this partnership is a clear demonstration of our ambition to be the biggest, we believe we are already the best.

"The new Saracens shirt will be unveiled at Saracens Summer Gathering at Allianz Park on Saturday 23rd July and we are certain that fans of the Men in Black will be as delighted by it as the players and staff are."

Andy Duckworth, chief commercial & marketing officer from Saracens said: 'We are thrilled to be working with BLK and to have a partner that is as keen as we are to develop some exciting and innovative on field and off field product.

"BLK is as forward-thinking and ambitious as Saracens and together we make a winning team."

Land Rover has today announced its renewal as Principal Partner of The British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand 2017. The renewal will see Land Rover resume its support of The Lions for a sixth time. Land Rover's support stretches back to the South Africa 1997 tour, a previous tour of New Zealand in 2005 and the victorious Australia 2013 tour.

In its role as Principal Partner as well as Official Vehicle of The British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand 2017, Land Rover will provide vehicles to help support operational needs of The Lions, not just on tour but in the UK and Ireland. With the unique demands of a Lions tour, Land Rover's role will be a pivotal one, helping meet the specific requirements set by the touring rugby team.

Through its partnership with such an iconic rugby institution, Land Rover is adding to its proud heritage in supporting rugby at all levels; from grassroots to the elite. This support has extended to two Rugby World Cup tournaments in 2011 and 2015 as Official Sponsor and a Worldwide Partner respectively, Official Vehicle of Premiership Rugby, Main Club Partner of English Premiership Rugby side Wasps and Title Sponsor of its UK grassroots rugby programme, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, which has been engaging the next generation of rugby players for nearly a decade.

Mark Cameron, Jaguar Land Rover Experiential Marketing Director, said: "Land Rover has been at the heart of rugby, from the grassroots to the elite, for over two decades. We share the same passion, resolve and integrity that sits within the core of the game. It is therefore fitting that Land Rover sponsor The British & Irish Lions for a sixth time. The Lions is a prestigious team with a renowned history that any player would want to be part of. Through its heritage in rugby, Land Rover has been part of The Lions team and is part of its history. Previous tours have shown the special nature of The Lions and The British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand 2017 promises to be no different."


The British & Irish Lions Chief Operating Officer Charlie McEwen said: "We are delighted to have renewed our long-standing relationship with one of the UK's most iconic brands. Land Rover has a rich history of supporting rugby and in particular The Lions. By its very nature, a Lions tour needs the support of partners who can meet the challenges posed. As such, Land Rover's experience is going to be invaluable. We are looking forward to building on the success of our relationship to ensure that the 2017 British & Irish Lions thrive in the best possible environment."

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Vodafone Ireland today announced a new four-year sponsorship of the Ireland rugby team.

The agreement, which commences on June 1 ahead of the summer tour to South Africa, will also see Ireland's leading total communications provider become official telecoms partner to the IRFU.

The new Canterbury-manufactured Ireland jersey was revealed at the Aviva Stadium today and will be worn by the team in South Africa for the first time.

Over the coming four years, Vodafone will use both new and existing technology to create events, activations and content that will benefit all rugby fans and Vodafone customers in Ireland. Vodafone's investment will allow fans to experience world class network services on match days.

Speaking at the sponsorship announcement, Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O'Leary said: "We at Vodafone Ireland are very proud to partner with the IRFU for what promises to be an extremely exciting sponsorship. This four-year partnership with the IRFU will take us up to and beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"Irish rugby has built something very special. There is a bond there between the players, individually and as a group, and the supporters from the four corners of Ireland and beyond which epitomises the very essence of sport.

"Supporting the Irish rugby team brings the whole country together and this mirrors exactly what our business does in connecting people around Ireland and further afield.

"Our aim is to bring supporters even closer to Irish rugby and we have innovative plans to do this on match days and right throughout the season. We will have live mobile match highlights for Vodafone customers, exciting priority ticketing for the GUINNESS Series and a jersey amnesty initiative, to name just some of our plans."

Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, commented: "We are delighted to be welcoming Vodafone to Irish Rugby's family of sponsors.

"They are a leading global technology brand with a proven track record in sponsorship. We look forward to working closely with the Vodafone team and helping them realise their ambitious strategies to enhance the fan experience."

Chris Stephenson, CEO at Canterbury of New Zealand, added: "The new Ireland rugby jersey is packed with technology & features designed to meet the specific needs of the Irish rugby team and has been created in collaboration between the IRFU team management, the squad and Canterbury's Innovation department.

"On the field this jersey will enable the team to perform without compromise or distraction and off the field it will unite supporters from all four provinces."

Bill Beaumont and Agustín Pichot have been elected World Rugby Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, on an historic day for the international federation in Dublin.

The pair, who stood unopposed, were unanimously voted in by members of World Rugby's Council in accordance with the bye-laws at its annual meeting. Both World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees, the pair will succeed Chairman Bernard Lapasset and Vice-Chairman Oregan Hoskins, who previously announced they would not seek re-election.

The election comes on an historic day that ushered in the implementation of expanded union and regional association representation on Council and the appointment of two independent directors to the federation's Executive Committee.

RFU and Six Nations Rugby chairman Beaumont, has also been central to World Rugby's decision-making bodies for more than a decade, served as Vice-Chairman from 2007 to 2012, and has been a key figure on the World Rugby Council, Executive Committee, Rugby World Cup Board and Rugby Committee bodies. As RFU chairman, Beaumont presided over the delivery of what will be remembered as the biggest and best Rugby World Cup to date.

He was also a decorated player, making his debut for England in 1975 going on to win 34 caps and leading England to their first Grand Slam for 33 years in 1980. Beaumont also played for the British and Irish Lions and later accompanied them as tour manager for the tour to New Zealand in 2005.

Beaumont said: "I am honoured to accept the mandate of Council to serve as World Rugby chairman at what is an exciting and pivotal time for the sport. Rugby has experienced significant and rapid growth, which is a credit to Bernard Lapasset and his leadership over the past eight years.

"The sport is in excellent health and over the next four years there will be many great opportunities to further develop and grow the game. However, we cannot be complacent. The game still faces challenges and my manifesto outlines the five priorities focused on addressing these. These priorities are continuing to protect players, preserving integrity, enhancing global competition, optimising partnerships and empowering and strengthening unions.

"I will nurture the roots of rugby, our fundamental values and financial security and will make rugby decisions for rugby reasons. As World Rugby Chairman, I will work with unions over the next four years to deliver healthy, sustainable growth for the game we all love."

With rugby experiencing unprecedented growth in new and emerging markets, Pichot's election represents the first time that an Argentinian has served as Vice-Chairman and is a significant and proud moment for rugby in South America.

As President of Rugby Americas, a former captain of Argentina's 15s (71 caps between 1995 and 2007, 28 as captain) and sevens teams and bronze medal winner at Rugby World Cup 2007, Pichot has been a driving force behind the rugby development of Argentina and South America on and off the field. Achievements include The Rugby Championship inclusion, Americas Rugby Championship establishment and the introduction of an Argentinian team in Super Rugby.

Pichot said: "I am honoured and excited to have been elected Vice-Chairman at what is an extremely exciting time for the growth and development of rugby and I would like to thank my Council colleagues and friends for their support and confidence.

"I look forward to working alongside Bill, with the support of the new-look Council and EXCO to serve rugby at all levels, promote inclusivity and equality and ensure that our great sport can continue its record growth into new and emerging rugby nations around the world."

Outgoing Chairman Lapasset added: "Rugby is in great shape around the world and I am proud that I vacate the position after eight wonderful years, during which we have achieved record participation, increased interest and engagement, Olympic inclusion and record-breaking Rugby World Cups.

"I leave with a dynamic new governance model implemented and I am delighted that my colleague and friend, Bill Beaumont, with a clear vision and strong passion for the global development of rugby, will drive the game into this exciting period. The future is very bright for our sport with the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a ground-breaking Rugby World Cup in Japan all major milestones before the end of this decade.

"I would like to thank all my colleagues on Council, EXCO, the unions, the World Rugby executive and of course all members of the global rugby family, including players and fans, for their passion, dedication and support during my time as Chairman. It has been an incredible journey."

Bath Rugby is delighted to announce the renewal of its long-standing partnership with Thatchers Cider.

Like Bath Rugby, the fourth-generation cider makers are part of Somerset's much loved heritage. Thatchers are ingrained in the Club's matchday experience, and the renewed partnership will see an increase in the brand's presence at the Recreation Ground – one that already includes the Thatchers Stand – whilst the logo will continue to be emblazoned on the back of the match jerseys.

Commenting on the partnership, Tarquin McDonald, Managing Director of Bath Rugby, said: "Our relationship with Thatchers is one that we're very proud of, so we are thrilled to be continuing our association with them. Thatchers play a significant role in the Club and nowhere is that more evident than at the Rec on matchday, where many of our supporters love watching the rugby with a great pint of cider."

Martin Thatcher, fourth-generation cidermaker and Managing Director of the family-run company, added: "Being a supporter and partner of Bath Rugby is a privilege. We share similar values and have made many good friends within the Club. We are delighted to be continuing our partnership into next season."

Thatchers will be hosting a special matchday sampling of their new cloudy cider Thatchers Haze on the outfield at the Rec on Saturday 7th May, as Bath take on Leicester Tigers in their final game of the season.