MARKETING MIX: RFU to tackle troubling times

Can things get any worse for the image of English rugby union? These are certainly 'trying' times.

Allegations about some of the game's top stars being involved in ticket touting will do little to aid RFU chief executive Francis Baron's beauty sleep, coming as they did on the back of last week's strike action, which threatened to turn Saturday's match against Argentina into a farce.

Players, it is rumoured, had threatened to wear their shirts inside out if their pay demands were not met, obscuring the name of sponsor BT Cellnet.

In the end, a deal with the players was secured and the threat didn't materialise.

But the touting allegations persist. And yet Investec, the investment bank that recently paid a cool pounds 1.55m to lend its name to three years of autumn internationals, seems remarkably unconcerned that its brand might be tarnished by association with a team allegedly involved in financial wrongdoing.

'As part of an ongoing marketing and communication effort, Investec entered into a sponsorship agreement with the RFU,' said Investec global marketing director Raymond van Niekerk. Er, well yes, we knew that already. 'The alleged sale of match tickets on the black market by England players is not an issue we are in a position to comment on as it is an RFU matter.'

So that's that then. Issue closed. Finito. It'll be interesting to see whether van Niekerk will be saying the same thing if the allegations are proven. Somehow we doubt it.


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