Rabbitohs Dump Firepower as Home Sponsorship
24th October 2007
South Sydney Rabbitohs have dumped their major sponsor, the controversial fuel technology company Firepower, in a move unprecedented in the NRL. After finishing seventh this season, senior Souths executives have quickly sought to find another multimillion-dollar sponsor that is more in keeping with its core values. Usually it is the sponsor that severs ties with clubs, not the other way around, but it is understood several current and prospective sponsors of the club were unhappy with the continued association between the Rabbitohs and the negative, headline-grabbing Firepower. What began as quiet nervousness when the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Taxation Office started investigating Firepower in March developed into open concern when Firepower chief executive John Finnin was sacked after evidence in court revealed the Victoria Police and Australian Federal Police were investigating him. But the company, which makes a fuel additive that claims to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, has come under attack from some of its 1200 shareholders for failing to provide detailed financial records and continued delays in listing on the Alternative Investment Market in London for more than 18 months. Several new sponsors are expected to sign up with the Rabbitohs now that Firepower is off the jersey and no longer linked with the club. South Sydney owner Peter Holmes a Court confirmed to the Herald last night the club decided not to take up the further options of the Firepower sponsorship when it expires on October 31. Firepower was just one year into a proposed three-year, $3.5 million sponsorship of Souths, which involved having its logo and brand across the front of home jerseys as well as signage at home grounds and on club property. It bought the company, mainly based in Perth, enormous exposure in the east-coast markets. Players such as Nigel Vagana and Roy Asotasi were approached to help publicise the company at marketing campaigns in Queensland, but training commitments prevented that occurring. "We have been very fortunate that Firepower met all of their obligations and we are very thankful for their million-dollar-plus support, but we need to be in the market for $2 million major sponsors in addition to Virgin Blue," Holmes a Court said. "At Souths the job was to start the re-building of our club and Firepower helped support that and we have nothing but good things to say about them. We thank them but we are moving on and we have got to go into the market now for a number of senior partners, which is a great opportunity because the brand and business is in a great place." This season Souths raised a total of $5.5 million in sponsorship, one of the highest in the league, with total revenue being $13 million, but the finals appearance was the biggest boost for the privately owned club. Holmes a Court said Firepower had paid all of its sponsorship monies.
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