Canterbury are favourites to succeed Puma as the new kit sponsor of the Ireland rugby team, the Sunday Independent understands, with November 2014 likely to be the launch date.
Details of a new deal, which would stretch to the 2020 Six Nations, taking in two World Cups, are in the final stages of negotiation and will come as good news to the IRFU, who are struggling financially after the recent failure to shift even 50 per cent of their advance tickets in Lansdowne Road.
It is understood the figure is worth up to €3.5m per annum split between cash, kit and bonuses. One industry source yesterday said: "In the current climate that's an excellent bit of business."
This figure would not come close to the €40m Puma agreed with the Union when they signed on in 2009 for what was originally intended to be an eight-year deal, but the market has been transformed for the worse since then. Puma, who are focusing now on football, opted out earlier this year paying the IRFU an €11.5m sign-off settlement.
That original Puma sponsorship came after the IRFU had secured big figure contracts with Aviva and O2 for naming rights to Lansdowne Road and sponsorship of the Ireland team respectively, and represented the height of the market for sports bodies in Ireland.
In the current climate an annual income of at least €3m, between cash and clothing, on top of the €11.5m sign-off from Puma, would be very welcome to a body who have had to negotiate a €25m overdraft to cover the shortfall in ticket sales.
It had been hoped to raise €40m – €17m of which was expected this year – from those debentures which were sold originally in the old stadium, in 2003. Instead however the return will come in at €14m for seats that were sold as either five or 10-year options. The Union will have to shift the unsold tickets on a match-per-match basis up to 2020 when the first tranche of tickets from the redeveloped stadium will be up for renewal.