Sponsorship deals ‘add competitive charge’ to Premiership, say clubs
On the back of what was considered one of the best and most entertaining Hong Kong Premiership seasons in 2013/14, several top clubs have attracted new sponsorship deals that will help them strengthen their top-flight teams and grow their local player base across all divisions.
Dave Whiteford, general manager of the newly monikered Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish, is confident the financial backing will add a highly competitive charge to the Premiership, which kicks off on September 27.
“The league will be incredibly competitive this year,” he said. “And with every team recruiting heavily I’m sure [the Premiership] will be especially intense.”
Thanks largely to Bloomberg’s contribution, Hong Kong Scottish have made a raft of changes in their bid to mount a more serious challenge for the title, after they finished fourth last term.
Key among their new signings is South African-born Scottish centre Bryan Rennie, who played more than a hundred games for Exeter Chiefs and Bristol in the English Premiership.
Rennie will link up with a trio of talented youngsters from Queensland University – number eight Kane Boucaut, flanker Austen Smith and fly-half Diggy Bird – as well as front-rowers Daniel Moussa and Frazer Wilford from Scotland, and Duncan Chubb, who will arrive in November once he finishes his commitments in the new NRC competition in Australia.
Other new faces in the Scottish line-up are English Championship players Len Ascroft-Leigh, a second-rower from Plymouth, and Andrew Henderson, a centre/fullback from Ealing.
“Expectations have definitely been raised, which we are happy about, as we want to make the step from being everyone’s favourite underdogs to title contenders,” said Whiteford.
Reigning Grand Champions and last year’s Premiership runners-up Valley RFC have also won new corporate support in the shape of a two-year deal with Société Générale, one Europe’s largest financial services groups.
The perennial title contenders will be known as Société Générale Valley RFC for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons after sealing a deal that aims to “develop rugby talent at the grassroots level and support Hong Kong’s sporting community”.
Valley chairman Andrew Riebe said: “Société Générale’s long-standing global rugby tradition, combined with its strong determination to be the best in its field, makes this an ideal fit, especially at a time when our club is going from strength to strength.”
Last year’s third-place finishers in the Premiership – Hong Kong Football Club – have signed an extensive three-year sponsorship deal with Natixis, the corporate, investment management and financial services arm of Groupe BPCE.
Natixis will support all HKFC teams in the HKRFU domestic leagues – men’s sides Club, Dragons, Scorpions, Select, Sequins, Bulls, Expendables, Contemptibles and Vandals; women’s side Fire and Ice; and all Youth and Minis teams. All HKFC sides will retain their existing names, but will have Natixis as a prefix.