Rugby: INEOS confirmed as new All Blacks, NZ Rugby sponsor

New Zealand Rugby has confirmed petroleum giant INEOS has signed on as a new sponsor of the All Blacks.

Under the new six-year deal, the All Blacks, Black Ferns, Sevens, NZ U20 and NZ Māori teams will all incorporate the new sponsor's logo on their playing shorts and training jerseys. 

"To partner with INEOS and be part of such a unique and diverse global sports performance group is an exciting new venture," says NZR chief executive Mark Robinson.

"We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with INEOS Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world."

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.

But the new partnership has already drawn ire from environmental groups, with Greenpeace joining the growing chorus concerned with the harm aligning with INEOS - one of the largest manufacturers of chemicals and oil products - could do to New Zealand's clean, green image.

In June, Greenpeace launched a petition against NZR bringing INEOS on board, claiming its investment in sport is merely used to distract from its alleged environmentally unfriendly practices, including opposing a ground-breaking new proposal to regulate toxic and persistent chemicals in microplastics.

Small plastic pellets used by plastic producers like INEOS can wind up in the sea, harming wildlife and polluting the water.

"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," said Greenpeace 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."

NZR doesn't appear to share such concerns.

"INEOS will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement," Robinson says.

Robinson insists he's pleased with the "due diligence" he and his team have put into their decision.

"We know that rugby in this country attracts a lot of scrutiny and any major decision we make comes with a fair degree of accountability as well," he notes. 

"So, we expect that, we welcome it, we think it's healthy for the game and for discussions within New Zealand and certainly we're really comfortable with the due diligence we've done."

Chairman of INEOS Sir Jim Ratcliffe adds: "We're delighted to partner with the All Blacks. They have consistently shown the grit and determination needed to perform at the highest level of sport and there will be a lot that we can learn from them."

Next step for NZR is to secure a new major sponsor for the front of their teams' jerseys, with their deal with US insurance giant AIG set to expire at the end of this season.