League trials sponsorship model at Challenge Cup
The Illawarra Rugby League will trial an innovative sponsorship model when the inaugural Challenge Cup officially kicks off in March that could prove a new way forward for the game at grassroots level.
The Coal League will partner with online company The Cash Back App to host the pre-season competition. The tournament's major sponsor has put up $7000 as first prize, with $2000 for the runner-up and $500 for teams that reach the semi-finals. But - in a move that could have longer-term positive implications for the regional game - it's also using the competition as the launching pad for it's brand in NSW.
"We've picked the Illawarra area to be our [NSW] launch market," chief executive Tim Tighe said. "To partner with rugby league in Illawarra to launch The Cash Back App Illawarra Challenge Cup is very exciting and has some great synergies for us, and also supports the major winter code in this proud sporting region. We know the people of the Illawarra are passionate about their rugby league and particularly their grassroots competition. It's something we feel very passionate about ourselves."
As an added incentive for fans to get out and watch the pre-season action TCBA will be giving away $1000 at each match.
"We're offering $1000 cash back to a lucky person who turns up to each game to incentivise more people to come and watch the game at the ground," Tighe said.
"We really want to make sure at the end of the day that we get more bums on seats, more people through the turnstiles and more cash back into the Illawarra Rugby League so they can support their players and their clubs."
All six Illawarra clubs have thrown their support behind the concept that will provide valuable match preparation just weeks out from the start of the Coal League season. New Gymea coach and Dragons great, Graeme Wynn, said it will also be a good yardstick for the two Shire clubs.
"It's a great opportunity for the teams from the Cronulla area because you like to see where you are and the standard in the Illawarra has always been very very high," Wynn said.
"[We] really think it's a fantastic concept."
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 12/2/2015