28 Jul 2021

NZ Rugby happy with INEOS deal as Greenpeace slams move

12:54 pm on 28 July 2021

New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson says they are comfortable with their decision to sign a six year sponsorship deal with British petro-chemical company INEOS.

Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson Photo: Photosport

INEOS will not appear on the front of All Black jersies, instead it will be on the back of the shorts and on the front of their training gear.

Last month Greenpeace said they were worried that aligning with the company could harm New Zealand's clean, green image.

However Robinson says they've put a lot of work into the deal and their decision wasn't taken lightly.

"We know that rugby in this country attracts a lot of scrutiny and any major decision we make comes with a fair degree of accountability as well. So, we expect that, we welcome it, we think it's healthy for the game and for discussions within New Zealand and certainly we're really comfortable with the due diligence we've done."

The All Blacks are still on the hunt for a major sponsor to put their logo on the front of the test jerseys, with AIG's deal with NZR finishing up this year. Robinson said that search is progressing well and he doesn't believe the INEOS deal will put other potential sponsors off aligning with the All Blacks.

INEOS will become the official performance partner of the All Blacks, Black Ferns, All Blacks Sevens, Black Ferns Sevens, Māori All Blacks, All Blacks XV and All Blacks Under-20s.

The new deal could be worth in the region of $8 million a year to NZR.

The INEOS partnership means the teams will join INEOS Sport teams; Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team; INEOS Grenadiers cycling team; INEOS TEAM UK sailing team; and football clubs OGC Nice and FC Lausanne-Sport as part of a sport performance group.

In a statement NZR said the INEOS Sport performance would bring together some of sport's best people and teams to tackle the greatest sporting challenges, through technology and human performance, and will officially launch later this year.

However the move hasn't been met with universal welcome, with Greenpeace and other environmental groups in New Zealand strongly against it.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel last month called the possible deal "appalling" and urged NZR to abandon the sponsorship with INEOS.

"In the thick of the climate crisis, our treasured national rugby teams could be branded with the logo of a company responsible for choking our oceans with plastic pollution and driving climate disasters.

"The All Blacks have this amazing brand and reputation. They must not sell that out to an oil corporate who is cynically wanting to greenwash its image by associating with the All Blacks and our country's environmental reputation."

Abel argued the All Blacks' brand would be destroyed.

"There is no way that we should allow that iconic rugby team to wear an oil corporation's logo on its back in the name of New Zealand."

Greenpeace said INEOS was one of only 20 companies responsible for half of single-use plastic items thrown away globally - and a significant player in the oil and gas sector.

With Aotearoa's coastlines, fishing stocks, endemic wildlife and landfills affected by this, Robinson was asked if NZR believe it's an ethical decision to align with Ineos and whether being associated with the oil giant would put rugby fans off, with one supporter on social media labelling the national side the "Oil Blacks" after the announcement.

"INEOS have made some really clear statements in recent times around the future of the environment, their business and we've certainly taken those into consideration in reaching the outcome we have. We know there will be conjecture and debate around this decision. We respect those views, we understand them, but ultimately we've had to do our own work and reach our own conclusions here."

Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said she's disappointed with the decision.

"In the thick of the climate crisis, it's gutting to see NZ Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with an oil and gas polluting conglomerate like INEOS that is responsible for driving us deeper into the climate crisis, and fouling the oceans with plastic pollution.

"Just in the past weeks we've seen deadly flooding and fires driven by climate change and it's just a taste of what the climate crisis has in store, especially for our coastal Māori and Pacific communities.

"Many of our rugby players are of Maori and Pacific descent, and come from communities which are on the frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events. They shouldn't be expected to wear the brand of a climate polluter like INEOS.

"As a Māori and Pasifika person myself, I feel let down. New Zealand Rugby have presented us with an ugly dilemma. Our island nations are on the front line of rising sea levels and extreme weather and we want action on climate, but we also want to see our people living their dreams donning the black jersey, but now they will carry the INEOS brand, and INEOS is one of the world's worst oil and plastic polluters.

"I think most New Zealanders will be very disappointed that NZ Rugby has chosen to soil the silver fern with the likes of INEOS", said Lee.