Indian rugby has received a massive boost in the form of a three-year sponsorship deal between Rugby India and Societe Generale, the French multinational banking and financial services company. The announcement was made at a press conference at the Bombay Gymkhana in Mumbai earlier today.
Societe Generale has over the years built a deep bond with rugby union across the world, and has played a great role in developing the sport in emerging nations. The banking giant’s investment in rugby began with the French rugby union championship in 1984-85 and since then, it has gone on to support the sport with great commitment.
Hong Kong, Turkey, Luxembourg and Senegal are among the nations that have greatly benefitted from the involvement of Societe Generale. Its entry into Indian rugby bodes well for the future of the game in the country, which has seen a rapid rise in the participation numbers over the last decade.
With this landmark deal, Societe Generale will not only support the national Sevens teams – seniors, juniors and women’s – by serving as the title sponsor, but also indulge in the development of rugby at the grass-root and school level. Given its track record in rugby, one would expect that Societe Generale’s association will lead to a brighter future for Indian rugby.
The conference was graced by Evelyn Collin, the chief executive and country officer of Societe Generale India; Aga Hussain, the Vice President of Asia Rugby; Mahesh Mathai, the Secretary General of Rugby India, and current and former national rugby players including present captain Nasser Hussain and popular veteran Rahul Bose.
Collin stressed about how there are common values such as team spirit, respect and discipline that link rugby with Societe Generale, and said that she was honoured to be a part of an exciting period in Indian rugby. Mathai gave an overview of how the game is growing in the country, especially the increase in female participation.
Participation in women’s rugby in India has increased manifold over the past decade, and the numbers can only grow in the coming years (source – shethepeople.tv)
Aga Hussain said that India, ranked 12th out of 32 teams in Asia, has the capability of reaching the top five in the continent in the next five years. Bose, who played for India from 1998 to 2009, spoke about the importance of enriching sponsorship for the sport and opined that Societe Generale was the perfect partner for Rugby India.
Asia today is an important market for World Rugby, what with the vast amount of talent waiting to be tapped. Initially regarded as an elite sport in India, rugby has reached remote areas in the past few years and there are now 55,290 players across the country. Societe Generale’s involvement has the potential to bring about a revolution in Indian rugby.
The proposed increase in the number of teams (from 20 to 24) at the Rugby World Cup from 2023 underlines World Rugby’s long-term objective of making rugby a truly global sport. Moreover, the 2019 edition is set to be hosted by Japan, an emerging nation that created ripples in the 2015 World Cup by upsetting South Africa.
2016 is significant for rugby as it makes a return to the Olympics after a gap of 92 years, in the Sevens format. Rugby Sevens has proved to be a highly popular concept in Asia – the Hong Kong Sevens is one of the most prestigious events on the rugby calendar – and in this scenario, the time is ripe for Indian rugby to progress to the next level.
Ranked 77th out of 102 nations, India would do well to maximise the advantage set to be derived from the relationship between Rugby India and Societe Generale. As Bose said, there could also be the exciting prospect of a televised national rugby league in the next 12 to 18 months – which would be a dream come true for players and fans alike.
The growth of rugby in India in recent times has been heartening and here’s hoping that following this significant sponsorship deal, the sport will further reach out to the public consciousness and create a positive impact on Indian society.