The ACT Brumbies will carry the name of the University of Canberra on their jerseys this year, starting a partnership that could lead to the football club moving to the UC campus.
Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan and university Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker signed yesterday what they believe is an Australian-first sponsorship agreement. The one-year deal will see the university gain international exposure throughout the Super Rugby season and provide the Brumbies with much needed financial support.
Professor Parker said while the sponsorship would boost the university's profile as a "sporting university", the partnership could lead to the two groups sharing a home.
"We see ourselves as a major Canberra institution, so are the Brumbies, and this kind of alliance is good for the city," Professor Parker said.
"Longer term, I'm attracted by the North American model, where the university and the sports team are close together, where students are fans wanting to got to the games and graduates want to be closer to the team.
"That model is really attractive.
"We aren't there yet, but there are discussions going on and I could see that it would be a very good fit."
Neither the Brumbies nor the university would disclose the sponsorship value, but it is believed to be similar to the $1 million a season Chinese technology company Huawei had pledged last year.
That deal collapsed just before Christmas.
The university's logo will feature prominently on the front of the home jersey, which marks a subtle shift back towards the club's traditional jersey and is likely to be more popular with supporters.
Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan hoped the partnership would deepen the club's connection to Canberra and introduce new supporters through the university.
"We think this is a first for partnership of this kind in Australia," Mr Fagan said.
"This will be more than just a traditional sponsorship.
"It enables us to partner with a prominent and respected Canberra institution, to proudly promote the city of Canberra on the front of the jersey and to engage directly with tens of thousands of students, staff and alumni, who we hope will be a feature at Brumbies matches."
The deal with UC will fill a major hole in the club's budget left after the 12-year association with former sponsor Computer Associates ended last year. The club posted a $200,000 loss last season, due mainly to low attendances during its worst season.
The collapse of the Huawei deal raised the prospect of the Australian Rugby Union stepping in to help cover the shortfall.
"It's a significant relief that we've been able to find a sponsor," Mr Fagan said.
"It was critical that we shored up our revenue and a lot of work has gone into getting us to this point."
While no deal has been done for the Brumbies to relocate to the university grounds, a shift from Griffith has been discussed for several years, due mainly to the poor standard of facilities there.
The club had its plans to redevelop Griffith Oval blocked on heritage grounds in 2010 and is currently awaiting a decision on its contentious application to rezone the site of its headquarters for redevelopment as apartments.