THE IRFU is on the lookout for a new sponsor for its November internationals after Guinness decided to end its 16-year partnership with the annual event.
The union confirmed fixtures against New Zealand, Argentina and Japan in Dublin on Monday, but it was noticeable that the announcement came without confirmation of a sponsor. Guinness, which also ended its sponsorship of the PRO14 at the end of last season as that competition becomes the United Rugby Championship, remains a partner of the IRFU and Leinster and Munster and is the title sponsor of the Six Nations.
The move comes against the back-drop of a changing sponsorship landscape in rugby, with investment firm CVC Capital now a partner of the Six Nations and it is believed to be looking to package all of the November matches hosted by Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France in the same deal.
Last year, the unions agreed to package the November TV rights together for both the spring and autumn windows and the sponsorship could soon follow suit.
However, the IRFU is still looking for a sponsor to back this year's matches, which they hope will take place in front of the biggest crowds they've welcomed to the Aviva Stadium since the pandemic began.
The lack of crowds has hit the IRFU coffers hard. It reported a loss of €37.5m last year and has projected losses of around €29m this year.
Earlier this year, 20 non-playing staff were made redundant while those remaining have accepted 20pc pay cuts as they moved to a four-day week. Playing and coaching staff have also taken cuts, agreed between the union and Rugby Players Ireland last year.
"Following a 16-year period as the title sponsor of the Guinness Series, we can confirm we will no longer be sponsoring the Autumn test window with the IRFU," a statement from Guinness read.
"We remain committed to Irish Rugby and recently renewed our long-term partnership with the IRFU, and look forward to continuing our work together into the future.
"With partnerships with the Guinness Six Nations, Leinster Rugby and Munster Rugby, we are looking forward to the upcoming club and international season."
The IRFU confirmed it is on the look out for a new sponsor.
"The IRFU and Guinness have been partners for many years and continue to work together. We thank them for their commitment to the Guinness series and their ongoing commitment to rugby. We are in discussions in relation to a title sponsor for the autumn international series," its statement read.