The Welsh Rugby Union has signed a major new six-year sponsorship deal with Gilbert which, for this season, means international rugby balls will carry gold markings to symbolise the fact that Wales are the current RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam Champions.
The deal will provide balls to all of the WRU’s national teams and domestic league clubs, with a specific design scheme to reflect the needs of each competition and group of players.
Gilbert take over from Webb Ellis and will provide the international match balls, predominantly red and white with gold markings, which Wales will not only use to defend their Championship title in 2013, but also to take on the might of Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia at the Millennium Stadium this autumn.
All WRU member clubs will receive an allocation of balls each season, with the number of balls they receive depending on the number of sides they run. This arrangement is designed to further enhance the WRU’s policy of rewarding clubs who make efforts to increase participation in the sport, and to incentivise clubs to continue growing their player pools.
The design of each category of ball illustrates a clear development pathway through the levels and age grades of Welsh rugby. In keeping with Gilbert’s trademarked design, each ball will be trimmed with a coloured ‘ellipse’ which will be an aspirational red for national elite level teams (Wales, Wales Sevens, Wales Women and Wales’ international age grade sides) and green for community club sides, to symbolise grassroots rugby in Wales.
The balls for the Principality Premiership and SWALEC League & Cup will blend the colours of the sponsor’s brand (i.e. red for Principality, blue for SWALEC) with various degrees of green to symbolise grassroots and semi-professional rugby within Wales.
“Everybody at Gilbert is delighted to be starting a new relationship with the WRU and to working at every level to grow the sport in Wales. We are especially proud that the Gilbert ball has been chosen by Wales following on from their fantastic season and exciting Rugby World Cup campaign,” said Richard Gray, Gilbert Sales and Marketing Director.
“This major new deal with Gilbert will be for the good of Welsh rugby from grass roots to senior level for the next six years.”
“We hope that this new colour coded system will prove to be aspirational for young players.”
Previously clubs have simply been sent an allocation of, on average 20 balls for the season but a new system of distribution will see clubs that run more teams being rewarded with the right size and standard of balls for their teams.
Leigh Halfpenny said: “There are so many different balls out there it is important that the ones we are playing with are of real quality. Gilbert are a real quality ball and I’m really pleased that Wales are going to be using them. From a kicking perspective, Gilbert balls stay on line and travel very well and you can get a lot of distance from them as well which is pleasing.
“England, Ireland, France and Scotland use them already so we now have real consistency across the Six Nations. It’s also great that they are also going to be distributed through the age grades down to grass roots to support the continued production of young Welsh talent. I know they will be getting them down at my old club Gorseinon and I’m very much looking forward to going down there to see them in use. "
WRU Head of Sales and Marketing Craig Maxwell added: “This new association with Gilbert is a significant announcement for the WRU and is our most comprehensive ball deal to date. Every club will be provided for each year for as well as all our National Teams and Development staff for the benefit of schools and junior teams.
“Not only do we get the top class quality associated with Gilbert balls, but we are thrilled with the detail we have been able to include in the contract to support on policy which rewards clubs who are making efforts to develop our game through club and player development.”