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Sponsors of sports knocked by Nama


RUGBY FAN: Johnny Ronan at the Heineken Cup final in Murrayfield last year. Photo: David Conachy

RUGBY FAN: Johnny Ronan at the Heineken Cup final in Murrayfield last year. Photo: David Conachy

RUGBY FAN: Johnny Ronan at the Heineken Cup final in Murrayfield last year. Photo: David Conachy

IRISH colleges rugby has been dealt a blow by Nama following an order to developers -- including their sponsor Treasury Holdings -- that they cut "non-core" spending on sponsorships, the Sunday Independent has learned.

It is understood that Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett's firm has terminated a sponsorship programme with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) that saw them help to fund the game at a college level, through whose ranks players such as Paul O'Connell, Marcus Horan and Jamie Heaslip have risen in the past.

Treasury declined to reveal the value of its rugby sponsorship deal, which was signed in November 2007. It was due to run for five years and involved financial backing for all Irish colleges competitions and international squads, plus a player of the year award.

The IRFU did not return calls on Friday, but as of last December, 39 colleges were involved in the game.

Although Mr Ronan and Mr Barrett can no longer support rugby-loving students, they and other developers have supported more studious activities in the world of education over the years.

The most generous was Bernard McNamara. In 2007, the company he controlled until recently, McNamara and Co, made a single, one-off donation of €2.5m to Trinity College for a Professorship in Construction Innovation.

The following year saw Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Group sponsor a national skills competition hosted by Dublin Institute of Technology, where 100 apprentices from around the country took part. Ballymore's involvement was only for that year.

Also keen to do his bit was Sean Dunne of Mountbrook Homes. In 2005 he awarded several scholarships to students at his alma mater, Tullow Community School in Co Carlow. Three years later, as part of TCD's access programme, he and Gayle Killilea sponsored an initiative that saw 200 students participate in voluntary community work.

Derek Quinlan's firm, Quinlan Private, also chose to support the world of learning. In 2006, the company sponsored the US-Ireland Alliance's Mitchell scholarship programme.

Developer Paddy Kelly also got in on the act. After dancing with the college's president at a fundraiser, he donated €250,000 to the National College of Ireland some years ago.

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Whether developers were able to claim tax relief for their sponsorships or donations is not known.

A Revenue spokesman said: "Generally, we would not see an expense purely on sponsorship or a scholarship as being an allowable deduction. In general, Revenue will challenge the deduction, in the accounts of a company, of sponsorship expenses."

In the past, Ronan and Barrett's own support for learning included a four-year €40,000 scholarship scheme for students from Ballymun and although that has since ended, one gesture to have survived is that they will continue to sponsor a gold medal in property law for second-year students in the subject at UCD.

Of course, given the situation that we're in, there might not be too many jobs going for graduates in property law. Then again, they could always send their CV to Nama.

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