States department sponsors Jersey Rugby Club

Jersey Rugby Club
Image caption A States department is the new main sponsor of Jersey Rugby Club

Taxpayers are to sponsor newly-promoted Jersey Rugby Club.

Jersey's Economic Development department is the new sponsor of the club which has risen through the national rugby leagues over the past few years.

The department will sponsor the club for a year and give it £75,000.

The Jersey Football Association said it was "surprised" because the States had cut sports funding, and it believed the club could get private sponsorship.

'Higher profile'

Jersey's Economic Development Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, said the rugby sponsorship provided an excellent business development opportunity for the island.

He said Jersey Tourism, which promotes tourism, and Locate Jersey, which encourages businesses to relocate to the island, would be the title sponsors of the club.

Senator Maclean said: "The club's promotion last season was a massive achievement, raising its profile within the rugby world and guaranteeing even more media coverage both locally and in the UK.

"In the higher leagues, people tend to be more passionate and committed to supporting their teams and therefore much more likely to travel to an away game, especially if it is to an attractive destination such as Jersey.

"The teams Jersey Rugby Club will be playing this year include Leeds, Nottingham, Doncaster, Bristol, Plymouth and Newcastle, all of which have easy access to direct flights to Jersey."

He said the department was working with hoteliers and travel operators to provide packages for visiting supporters.

Outgoing Jersey Football Association president Ricky Weir said it was the "first time in my sporting life to hear of a government supporting a sports club in that way".

'Scrabbling for money'

The move was surprising, he added, because there had been "massive cuts in government support for local sport across the board".

The island's Sport Council is seeing its budget cut from £176,000 in 2011 to about £122,500 in 2012.

Mr Weir said: "We're all scrabbling for a small pot of money to subsidise what the players can put in and normally the private sector would do that.

"I'm convinced the private sector would be - and is - lining up to sponsor the club. They're possibly in the luxury of knocking sponsors back.

"In terms of government decisions being made and money going into that single club, it really isn't balanced or fair.

"It seems there is one rule for one and one for another."

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