With the new season just two weeks away, the new sponsor of Super League looks set to be the winner of a battle between the Stobart Group and betting company Betfair.
In recent weeks, Stobart Group had been rumoured by many to be favourites to succeed Engage as sponsors of the competition, after the insurance company’s six year deal came to an end.
But now Betfair have emerged as a contender, and the RFL last week registered the domain name, betfairsuperleague.co.uk, just as it had done with Stobart recently.
Engage’s deal was thought to be worth around £1.2m per year, but industry experts point to the difficult sponsorship market as to why the RFL has faced a delay in its search for a flagship sponsor.
It is believed that clubs have been asked on their thoughts about a betting company landing the main sponsorship, with rugby league very much keen to promote a family sport image at all time.
Meanwhile, a source close to Stobart claimed that their preference would be to be one of a number of companies that back the competition in 2012, rather than be the stand-alone major sponsor.
This would link with a recent claim from Probiz, in which they said they had agreed to become a key sponsor of Super League as a whole, when announcing the renewal of their sponsorship with Castleford.
Betfair has previously sponsored the England rugby union team, and invests significant sums in to horse racing, which includes an ongoing commitment to sponsor races at every UK racecourse.
It is unknown whether the RFL plan to announce the new sponsor before the start of the season, although it should be remembered that previous sponsor Engage was only announced days before the start of the 2006 season.