By Jonathan Rest
The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England will be the most profitable in the tournament's history, raking in more than £150 million ($239 million), beating the previous record by a minimum of 24 per cent, according to the International Rugby Board.
Three worldwide partners have already signed up to sponsor the 2015 Rugby World Cup - Heineken, Société Générale and Land Rover - and three more deals are expected to be finalised soon to complete the top-tier package.
Speaking in London today at a briefing to mark two years to the start of the World Cup, Brett Gosper, the IRB's chief executive, said: "We should lock down six partners earlier than ever before."
Heineken and Société Générale were also worldwide partners for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, along with ANZ, DHL, Emirates and MasterCard.
Gosper would not reveal the categories for the remaining three worldwide partner slots, but did not rule out another of the 2011 sponsors returning, noting: "There is some loyalty. We think we will have some that want to come back."
Murray Barnett, the IRB's head of commercial, broadcast and marketing, said: "When we talk about the commercial side of the tournament, it is difficult not to be hyperbolic or use superlatives because this is the quickest sign-up we have had in terms of sponsorship partners, providing the biggest increases, the most competition for slots and the largest commitments to activate.
"The current situation at the top level of worldwide partners is that we have three already signed up, we have two hovering above the signature line and one that is pretty close.
"Of the approximate 18 commercial partners that we will have overall, 90 per cent of those will be signed up before the end of the year, which gives us a year and three-quarters to talk to them about activation."
He quipped: "If this isn't the most successful Rugby World Cup from a commercial perspective, then I think Brett will probably fire me."
International law firm Clifford Chance was today unveiled as the official legal adviser to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, having held the same role for the 2007 tournament in France.
Gosper said: "The benchmark in terms of surplus success, which is the money invested back into the game, is France, which was £121 million from 2007. We believe that England will situate itself above £150 million, so quite a leap from there, with New Zealand 2011 being £92 million. It is a significant uplift coming out of hard economic times."
This surplus for the IRB comes from broadcasting, sponsorship and other revenue, while the tournament host’s income is from ticket sales only.
Barnett said the IRB was close to finalising the schedule with host broadcaster ITV, the UK's public-service broadcaster, with "the vast majority of games" to be shown in the UK on its primary ITV1 channel.
He added the IRB was "honing in" on 2015 World Cup television rights deals in major rugby union nations, most notably in France and New Zealand where "it will be largest deals we have done in those markets."
Barnett continued: "From a purely commercial perspective, it is an incredible story of growth and interest in the sport. It will give us a great platform to take onto Japan [host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup]."