An online dating service encouraging extra-marital affairs has offered to sponsor the Cronulla Sharks in a deal worth more than $10 million.
International social networking service Ashley Madison – whose company slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair" – has prepared a record sponsorship offer to the cash-strapped club.
In a letter to Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce – obtained by Fairfax Media – Ashley Madison founder and chief executive Noel Biderman outlined a proposal which included covering a $1 million fine provisionally imposed by the NRL over the club's supplements program in 2011 in return for naming rights sponsorship on their jersey.
All up, the deal is worth $11 million over a decade. It's the second time Ashley Madison has attempted to get into bed with the Sharks. In May of 2012, the Canadian company tabled stadium and naming rights deals worth a combined $500,000, with bonuses if the Shire team made the finals or grand final. After careful consideration, the previous Sharks board and management rejected the proposal because of concerns the partnership would damage their brand.
However, Ashley Madison has upped the ante in its latest offer to the only NRL club yet to secure a major backer.
"I wanted to follow up from our discussions last year with [previous chairman] Damian Irvine regarding potential sponsorship opportunities," Biderman wrote in his letter to Noyce, dated January 16, 2014. "I have been following the club with great interest and was saddened to read about the recent heavy sanctions imposed on the club by the NRL.
"As a former lawyer and sports agent – sports runs through my veins so I would like to enter into a discussion regarding our support for the Cronulla Sharks and would like you to consider our role in its future. Like many other brands, we feel a mutually beneficial partnership can be forged to create opportunities for both sides.
‘‘AshleyMadison.com is prepared to offer a significant financial injection into the club on the following basis: ‘‘AshleyMadison.com will pay $1,000,000 fine imposed by the NRL in return for front of jersey naming rights.
‘‘AshleyMadison.com will pay $10,000,000 over a 10-year period for stadium rights, subject to negotiation of a binding sponsorship agreement that is satisfactory to both parties.
‘‘We hope you are interested in exploring this opportunity with us. Thank you for your consideration and we’ll look forward to hearing from you soon.’’
Noyce said he was unaware of the offer when contacted during the week.
The ‘‘indecent proposal’’ leaves Cronulla in an invidious position. No other NRL club has been harder hit by the fallout from the infamous ‘‘darkest day in sport’’ press conference, with potential sponsors steering clear during the NRL and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigations into the club.
The Sharks have since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees and face a fine of $1 million and the suspension of coach Shane Flanagan for up to a year if the NRL’s provisional sanctions become permanent.
Even if the new Cronulla board accepted the proposal, the Australian Rugby League Commission could block the deal if it felt the association tarnished the image of the code.
It is not the first time Ashley Madison has offered big bucks to gain a foothold in world sport.
The company – which claims to have almost 24million anonymous members worldwide – reportedly offered $4million for naming rights at one of the FIFA World Cup venues in Brazil.