Allianz brings early end to deal with scandal-hit Saracens

German financial services company Allianz has opted to end its role as the stadium naming rights partner and main sponsor of reigning English Premiership rugby union champion Saracens a year early, as the club prepares for relegation after being embroiled in a salary cap scandal.

Following days of speculation, Allianz confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that its sponsorship of Saracens and its stadium would conclude following the current 2019-20 season. Stating the move had been a “difficult decision”, Allianz said it intended to continue to support the London club’s Saracens Sports Foundation.

Allianz has a portfolio of stadium naming rights deals and on Wednesday evening it was announced that its contract with Italian Serie A football club Juventus had been renewed. The new contract, valued at €103.1m (£86.4m/$112m), runs from July 1, 2023 until June 30, 2030, with the Turin club’s home to continue to be known as Allianz Stadium.

Allianz has backed Saracens since 2012, and in December 2017 the two parties extended the deal to run through until at least 2021, an agreement that is said to be worth £2m (€2.4m/$2.6m) per year. However, Allianz Park is now set to be renamed for the 2020-21 season.

Saracens said in a statement: “Saracens look forward to the remainder of the 2019-20 season working with the Allianz team around the club’s existing games at Allianz Park as well as its showpiece fixture The Showdown at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday 28th March, where Saracens will play in Allianz’s special edition blue shirt.

“Saracens look forward to working with our stable of committed principal partners including Nike, Hy-Pro and Simba and we would like to thank them for their ongoing support. We are also excited about developing new commercial partnerships in the coming months.”

Premiership Rugby last month handed Saracens a further 70-point deduction, a move that guaranteed the side will be relegated to the second-tier Championship at the end of the season. Premiership Rugby said the points deduction was made to ensure the club finishes bottom of the Premiership and “provide clarity for clubs and supporters”.

Earlier in January, Saracens decided to accept relegation after admitting it will fail to meet salary cap regulations for the fourth consecutive season. Premiership Rugby in November handed Saracens a 35-point deduction and a fine in excess of £5m for breaches of its salary cap rules.

The announcement ended an investigation into business partnerships between some of the club’s players and its chairman Nigel Wray, who stepped down in January. The charges, which related to the three seasons spanning 2016-17 to 2018-19, were brought in June following a nine-month investigation by Premiership Rugby.

An Independent Panel ruled that Saracens, which are also the reigning European champions, failed to disclose payments to players in each of the three seasons. In addition, the club was found to have exceeded the ceiling for payments to senior players in each of the three campaigns. The Panel imposed a total fine of £5,360,272.31, along with the total deduction of 35 league points, which was applicable to the 2019-20 Premiership season.

Image: Saracens