Rugby Union: Record tapped by Quins

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The Independent Online
HAVING last week decided to splash out more than pounds 3m on Wales's Heineken League, Whitbread added a more modest but still record pounds 350,000 yesterday when it announced its four-year backing for the Harlequin Football Club.

Such players as Will Carling make Harlequins the most glamorous club in England; they were Cup finalists last season and the winners in 1991. Their consistently indifferent record in something called the Courage league is in part a product of their consistent depletion by England, though the high profile of their international players is one good reason they are such an attractive sponsorship vehicle. Henceforward, they will be emblazoned with the Flowers Original (4.4 per cent alcohol by volume) logo.

If the Heineken/Flowers figures are representative of what brewers believe rugby union to be worth, clearly Courage's forthcoming negotiation with the Rugby Football Union about renewing its English league sponsorship will not be a discussion about peanuts.

The Harlequin deal is the largest there has been in club rugby, and though not all of the pounds 350,000 will go directly to the club it is another recognition of rugby union's post-World Cup impact. A proportion - about one-third, if the Heineken deal is anything to go by - will be spent by the company in marketing and support.

Still, at least Quins know they will substantially benefit, unlike some of the clubs concerned in previous big deals. Bristol, for instance, thought they would be getting pounds 300,000 from an insurance company but it never materialised. Much of Cardiff's pounds 300,000 deal with Brent Walker was dependent on success, of which there was none.

More modestly, but nonetheless in the English First Division, the whisky firm Famous Grouse last night announced at the Athletic Ground an extension of its sponsorship of London Scottish into a fifth season.

Beer or Scotch, a little of what you fancy does a rugby club no harm. Famous Grouse's support has been increased to pounds 30,000 for the season, the Exiles' first in the top flight.