Rugby Union: A tale of two whiskies

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The Independent Online
AT Richmond Athletic Ground, home to not one but two of the august institutions of rugby in England, all toasts this season will be made with a drop of the hard stuff. As one of the club officials involved put it: 'I do hope this doesn't lead to a whisky war.'

Yesterday Richmond of the Courage Championship Second Division announced a three-year sponsorship deal with The Glenlivet, their co-tenants of the past 98 years London Scottish (Courage First Division) having the previous night extended theirs with The Famous Grouse into a fifth season.

The beginning of the rugby season is the season of unremitting sponsorship announcements but the prospect of the two brands vying for patronage at the one venue is enough to make a whisky-drinker see double.

The Famous Grouse's continued backing is worth pounds 30,000 to the Scottish this season. Glenlivet's comes in at an index-linked pounds 30,000 per season, with a bonus payable on promotion to the First Division, though Richmond's immediate target is more modest: a top-four place to keep the club from relegation, which league reorganisation means will embrace seven of the 13 Second Division clubs this season.

Richmond cannot let the 12-year malt to go to their heads, because while being promoted from the Third Division last season they incurred a pounds 40,000 loss. This has been largely made up by their members' purchase of 280 debentures in Twickenham's new East Stand, earning the club a pounds 28,000 windfall from the Rugby Football Union at the same time as membership has risen by 25 per cent to 1,200.