June 4 (Reuters) - Dutch brewer Heineken signed a four-year partnership with European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to return as title sponsors for the European Champions Cup, the continent’s most prestigious club competition, starting from the 2018/19 season.
The deal will see the competition renamed the Heineken Champions Cup and matches from the tournament will be available on free-to-air television in the UK, France and Ireland for the first time.
Heineken and the EPCR declined to provide financial details.
“We have substantially developed the Champions Cup over the past four seasons and it is fitting that at such an exciting time for the tournament, we welcome back a world-leading brand in Heineken,” EPCR chief executive Vincent Gaillard said in a statement.
“They are steeped in rugby history and inextricably linked with the heritage of European club rugby and we are delighted to be embarking on this journey with their full support.”
The Heineken Cup previously ran from 1995 to 2014, when the EPCR replaced it with the current Champions Cup.
The tournament has not had a title sponsor since 2014, instead having relationships with a group of backers, emulating a model that has proved lucrative for Champions League soccer.
In the final in May, Ireland’s Leinster defeated Racing 92 of France, equalling Toulouse’s record of four European Champions Cup titles.
“... Heineken is proud to have had a close association with rugby for over 20 years and we look forward to working alongside EPCR to provide a platform to continue to develop the competition across Europe and beyond,” Heineken’s global sponsorship director Hans-Erik Tuijt added.
Heineken have a long history of partnerships with sports competitions and currently have deals with the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup. The brand also became the official beer of the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016. (Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, Editing by William Maclean)