Rugby league: Sonny Bill Williams to refuse to wear chief sponsor on Toronto Wolfpack jersey

Williams had the BNZ logo on his  Blues jersey replaced with Plunket in 2017.
Williams had the BNZ logo on his Blues jersey replaced with Plunket in 2017. Photo credit: Getty

Sonny Bill Williams will reportedly refuse to wear the Super League's chief sponsor on his playing jersey for his new Toronto Wolfpack team due to his religious beliefs.

The UK-based competition's primary sponsor is betting company Betfred, and Toronto Chairman Bob Hunter says Williams - a devout Muslim - has been steadfast in his position.

"We're in discussions with Super League about this, but Sonny has been very clear in his stance on the matter," Hunter told the Daily Telegraph.

"I think Betfred will benefit by taking the position that we respect and honour the player's religious beliefs.

"In today's society there are some very sensitive issues but I think the sponsor can say 'yes, okay, we understand this. He's a big brand and big name but we get it'."

After last year's Rugby World Cup, the former All Black signed a lucrative two-year deal with the Wolfpack reported to be worth $10 million.

In 2017, Williams was confronted with the same issue when he joined Super Rugby's Blues and insisted the BNZ logo was covered up.

He taped over the bank's logo on his collar in his debut, and a bespoke jersey was soon created sporting a Plunket logo in its place.

Islam objects to the banks' charging of interest, as well as gambling and alcohol.

The Wolfpack were still deciding on the best way to conceal the Betfred logo on William's jersey, said Hunter.

"I can't say how it will work on a practical basis, but the league [Super League] may want an alternative," he added.

"Maybe something to prop up another sponsor, but again those discussions are still to be had."

Hunter said the impact of the cross-code superstar's brand had already been keenly felt.

"The significance of Sonny's personal brand has been wonderful," Hunter told the Sun-Herald. "On both sides of the pond, it has been very positive.

"I'd say sponsorship has increased about 25 to 30 percent, and our season ticket sales are up at least 30 percent from last year. But one of the problems is we play our first 10 games in the UK, so it's tough to get that excitement building in Toronto."

Williams has returned to New Zealand for the birth of his fourth child, which ruled him out of the Wolfpack's first pre-season match against the Castleford Tigers on Monday (NZT).