Irish rugby a perfect fit for PwC, Big Four extends sponsor deal

03 June 2016

PwC will continue to support the Irish Rugby Football Union for a further four years, extending on a partnership that goes back to 2006. The deal includes support of the IRFU’s Elite Player Pathway Programme that seeks to foster young sporting talent toward competitive competencies in both rugby and business.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was founded in 1879. The organisation manages rugby union in the island of Ireland (both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), creating a cross-national organisation that serves rugby in both the Ireland and the UK. The IRFU owns a number of grounds and supports a wide range of rugby related activities across regions and levels, from determining rules and regulation to rugby community support, training and organisation. Among the teams supported through the club are the Ireland U20, Ireland U19 and Ireland U18 teams. These teams represent Ireland’s top squad of young players under the age of 20, 19 and 18 respectively.

The IRFU recently welcomes the news of PwC’s continued support of the U20, U19 and U18 squads. The professional services firm has committed to supporting the Union for another four years, following the end of its recent four year sponsorship. The firm started the sponsorship deals in 2006, making the firm one of the IRFU's longest serving partners. The value of the sponsorship has not been disclosed.

Irish rugby a perfect fit for PwC, Big Four extends sponsor deal

In addition, the sponsorship deal will involve support of the IRFU’s Elite Player Pathway Programme, aimed at identifying and fostering the development of rugby talent in Ireland. Through the programme, players’ development is enhanced and fast-tracked, in a bid to ready them for the fierce competition at representative levels in the professional game as well as in business life.

The U20 team to take part in the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship was named as part of the sponsorship announcement ceremony by Ireland U20 Head Coach Nigel Carolan. The tournament takes place in Manchester from June 7 to June 25.

PwC Ireland Managing Partner Feargal O’Rourke says the firm “wishes the Ireland U20 team the very best of luck” for its upcoming 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester. He adds about that sponsorship deal: “Talent development and supporting our people to be the best they can be is also very much part of our business. We are therefore very excited to also be associated with the Elite Player Pathway Programme. It is fantastic to see former U20 players such as Josh van der Flier and Finlay Bealham making their senior debuts this season, joining more than a dozen other players in the Irish squad this season who have come through the U20 set-up during the period of our sponsorship.”

Philip Orr, Junior Vice-President of the IRFU, says "The IRFU is delighted to be continuing its partnership with PwC. It has been very positive for Irish Rugby to have such a strong brand associated with our up and coming players over the last number of years. It’s also very pleasing that PwC have come on board as sponsors of the Elite Player Pathway Programme and we look forward to working with them on the programme in the years to come.”


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Champions League glory hard to buy for football’s economic elite

15 March 2019

The thrills and spills of knock-out football can still be one of the sport’s great levelling forces, with the Champions League’s second round having shown that the biggest spenders aren’t always able to buy their way to glory. While a league format broadly favours the squad depth of the beautiful game’s richest teams, half of the tournament’s wealthier teams exited in the first one-on-one elimination round.

As the Champions League burst back into life in February, following an agonising winter break, only two of the 16 teams re-launching their Champions League last-16 bid were from outside the so-called Big Five football leagues. With the exceptions of Portuguese champions FC Porto and Dutch footballing powerhouse AFC Ajax, teams from the world’s biggest spending leagues monopolised the second round. As outlined by analysis from KPMG’s Football Benchmark, the Premier League was represented by four teams, with three clubs come from La Liga and the Bundesliga respectively, while Serie A and Ligue 1 both retained two clubs.

This followed a grimly predictable group phase, which had seen the two most expensive squads progress in all but one of the eight collections of four teams. The one team to buck that trend, Ajax, had last won Europe’s premier club competition in 1995, but those halcyon days have long since faded into memory, and Ajax had failed to progress beyond the group stage in 13 years. With the second youngest squad in the tournament, what now seems to be an awakening football giant had some shocks in store for the second round too.

Group Stage values

Despite an impressive Europa League run which saw the team reach the final two years ago, Ajax had not progressed in a Champions League knockout stage tie since the 1996-97 campaign. That all changed this time, as Erik ten Hag’s men overturned a first leg deficit to trounce Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate. Having felt hard done by in a 2-1 defeat at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Amsterdam club cruised to a 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, a result which saw the tournament’s fourth most expensive squad crash out to the third cheapest remaining team.

The supremely expensive team, which had won three Champions Leagues on the trot, had crashed out in spectacular style. For many footballing purists, the end of the seemingly invincible Galacticos would have been enough to restore some of their faith in the sport – but there would soon be more schadenfreude to revel in, as a succession of Europe’s most bank-breakingly costly teams would soon join Los Blancos in their exit.

The pick of the bunch was unquestionably Paris Saint-Germain, who forfeited a 2-0 first leg advantage to somehow crash out of the Champions League. The team, who are fast becoming known as the foremost bottlers in Europe, faced a grim dissection in the French press following a 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Le Parc de Princes. While it would be over-egging it to paint United as ‘giant killers’, the Red Devils squad is worth markedly less than the club bankrolled by Qatari oil money. PSG hold two of the most expensive players of all time in French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian playboy Neymar.

Second Round values

Elsewhere, the round’s cheapest squad proved further that money is not everything, as Porto overcame Roma (the Italian club has since parted ways with manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of this humbling) – while Juventus battled back to beat Atlético Madrid. The most ‘balanced’ tie of the round, there was a squad value difference of only €22 million between the two squads, in favour of the Spanish giant. With that being said, €113 million of Juve’s price-tag came from the summer acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s tie-settling hat-trick went to show that money spent in the right place ultimately makes the difference.

Spending wisely

At the same time, there were also four teams which lived up to their large price-tags. Manchester City pummelled Schalke over the course of two legs, hammering the German team 7-0 in the second game. With the largest squad market value in the tournament, the Citizens showed that their spending had not merely been a frenzy provoked by having large amounts of money to throw about – a la PSG – and that every penny had in fact been used to craft one of the continent’s most well-balanced and dangerous teams, to ultimately contend for the title.

Tottenham Hotspur similarly brushed off Borussia Dortmund, while Liverpool eventually overcame Bayern Munich, to leave no German teams in the tournament. Meanwhile, Barcelona similarly did for the French contingent of the Champions League, bundling out Olympique Lyonnais 5-1.

Operating Revenues

Going forward, the humbled economic superpowers of European football will take solace from the fact that their huge operating revenues will allow them to buy up talent which has emerged in this year’s Champions League. With Real Madrid having re-installed Zinidine Zidane as Head Coach, the club has already committed itself to spending big in the summer, cashing in some €50 million of its €743 billion revenue stream from last year to sign Éder Militão from Porto – who has impressed in this year's Champions League – in the summer.

Whether the PSG project is financially sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen, meanwhile, but with a huge portion of commercial revenues including shirt-sales from the club’s array of superstars, it will likely also seek to bring in more big names in the summer. The club was reportedly in the running to sign Ajax star Frenkie de Jong, before Barcelona finally secured his services from the end of the season.

The likes of Ajax will meanwhile face an uncomfortable wait, as a range of its new crop of outstanding players inevitably attract the attentions of Europe’s top spenders. With the lowest operating revenues of any team left in Europe, the club will face an uphill struggle to hang on to the likes of teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt. However, it would not be the first time that the club has been plundered for its top talent, and what Ajax and clubs of its size can take forward is that with the right eye for lower-key recruitment, they can rebuild, and still challenge Europe’s elite.