Greenpeace has lashed out at the prospect of NZ Rugby embracing British petroleum giant Ineos as a major sponsor of the All Blacks next year.
NZ Herald reports the oil company looms as a shorts sponsor, when US insurance firm AIG ends its 10-year relationship with the NZ national teams after 2022.
But environmental watchdog Greenpeace has shown a "red card" to that proposal, describing Ineos as a "merchant of plastic pollution".
The company is probably best known to Kiwis as the naming-right sponsor of Team UK's ill-fated America's Cup campaign in Auckland this year, but is also a significant investor in Formula One motor-racing, Tour de France cycling and European football.
The Herald understands the NZ Rugby deal, which would cover all national teams - All Blacks, Black Ferns, Sevens, NZ U20 and NZ Māori - is worth $5-8 million and was struck with Ineos chief executive Sir Jim Ratcliffe during his America's Cup visit to New Zealand.
But critics have accused the company of investing heavily in sports to distract from its environmentally unfriendly core business and Greenpeace has launched a petition against the All Blacks sponsorship.
"It is appalling that, in the thick of a climate crisis, our treasured national rugby team could be branded with the logo of a company responsible for choking our oceans with plastic pollution and driving climate disasters," says Greepeace senior campaigner Steve Abel.
"As the world turns against the corporations driving climate catastrophe, NZ Rugby must not sell our soul to an English oil corporate, which is cynically wanting to greenwash its image by associating with the All Blacks and our country's environmental reputation."
Abel compares the possible sponsorship to the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand, "when NZ Rugby put our national team on the wrong side of history, as the world was standing against the apartheid regime in South Africa".
Before it can be finalised, the deal must be approved by the NZ Rugby Players' Association and existing sponsor Adidas, which will continue to hold pride-of-place on the All Blacks jersey.
NZ Rugby already has its hands full, as it battles to pass a proposed deal that would see American private equity firm Silver Lake take a 12.5 percent stake in commercial rights for $390 million.
The contract would assure the game considerable funding to invest in grassroots development, but is vehemently opposed by the NZRPA, which claims the numbers don't add up.