Lions chairman Andy Irvine has highlighted the importance of sponsorship when it comes to a modern-day tour.
Britain and Ireland’s elite head to Australia next summer as they embark on a 10-match tour that begins against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and ends with a three-Test series with the Wallabies.
Talk of team selection will dominate the rugby world in the lead up to the 2013 adventure but Irvine insists that the behind the scenes efforts of the Lions’ partners will also play a big role in the success of the tour.
“Lions tours are expensive – it costs a lot of money to run a Lions tour,” said Irvine, who was Lions chairman in 2009 but has an even more hands on role this time around.
“Running a Lions tour is a huge logistical event. There’s the players and then there’s an entourage of about 30 people in terms of backroom staff that go on tour so it costs a lot of money.
“Without the support of our sponsors like HSBC, Rhino, First Cape, adidas, Thomas Pink and Qantas, Lions tours couldn’t take place. Without them, it wouldn’t be viable.”
Attracting sponsors is therefore a key part of the build up to a Lions tour but Irvine admits that they are never short of options when it comes to finding the very best.
And while financial backing is imperative, the support the sponsors show in their emotional attachment, and understanding of the Lions’ cause, is equally important.
“We’re very fortunate that the Lions brand is such that we’ve never really struggled for quality sponsors and I’m not just talking about the quality of the money but also the quality of support they provide as well – that’s vital,” added Irvine.
“We’ve got a super commercial team behind the Lions. CEO John Feehan and his team in Dublin have been involved for two or three tours now and they know what it’s all about, so we’re very well served in that department.
“We don’t just enjoy the benefits of our sponsors’ financial support – we enjoy working with them because this is a special club.”