Walter Drenth, Heineken Ireland Marketing Director, Jean Pierre Lux ERC Chairman , Didier Debrosse Heineken Regional President Western Europe and ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath
One of the world's most successful sporting sponsorships is set to continue for a further four years after tournament organizers ERC and Heineken agreed to extend their partnership through to 2013.
It means that Europe's premier club rugby tournament, the Heineken Cup, will retain its title sponsor through to the end of the 2012/13 campaign with Heineken increasing their investment in European club rugby in a new four-year extension.
Heineken first joined forces with tournament organisers ERC on 1 November, 1995 - the day after the first game had been played in the then European Rugby Cup competition and this weekend's first game in Round 3 of the 2008/09 Heineken Cup will be match No. 923.
Addressing a lunch to celebrate 14 seasons of the Heineken Cup, ERC Chairman, Jean-Pierre Lux said: "The partnership between ERC and Heineken has grown to be something very, very special in rugby union. With the support of Heineken we have nurtured the Heineken Cup and created a tournament which has earned the respect and admiration of the rugby playing world.
"I would like to thank everyone connected with Heineken for their loyalty, enthusiasm and commitment to our great tournament and for the fundamental role they have played in the Heineken Cup's development."
Heineken Regional President Western Europe, Didier Debrosse was equally pleased with the sponsorship partnership renewal. Speaking at the launch he said: "Heineken is delighted to continue the Heineken Cup sponsorship. We value the partnership with ERC and are committed to support the fantastic relationship Heineken has with the best international club rugby tournament.
"The Heineken Cup has achieved positive growth, awareness and prestige each year since its foundation in November 1995. It is a pleasure for Heineken to continue to bring this unique, qualitative, and passionate rugby experience to all its supporters across Europe and beyond."
ERC Chief Executive, Derek McGrath thanked the tournament's stakeholders saying: "Partnership has been central to the success of the Heineken Cup tournament over the past 14 seasons and today's announcement reflects great credit on all of the tournament's stakeholders.
"The elite players and clubs across Europe, Club bodies, Unions, match officials, international broadcasters and media, together with our commercial partners and of course the millions of fans who have all combined to create a unique European rugby experience.
"Heineken has been central to this partnership from the opening game and their commitment, together with that of our other stakeholders, will ensure the tournament continues to thrive and grow in the seasons ahead."
Heineken Cup Facts and Figures
* The inaugural tournament in 1995 consisted of 12 teams from five countries with a total of 15 matches played. The tournament now features 24 teams from six nations (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) competing over 79 matches to be crowned "Champions of Europe"
* There have been a total of 922 matches played so far adding up to more than 1,230 hours of tournament action including extra time in the 1996 and 2005 finals and 1997/98 semi-final between Toulouse and Brive.
* Toulouse have the most appearances in the tournament with 96. Only four teams have played in every season of the tournament - Toulouse (champions in 1996, 2003 and 2005), Ulster Rugby (winners 1999), Munster (champions in 2006 and 2008) and Leinster.
* The most games played by a player in the tournament are 86 by former Munster No 8 Anthony Foley. The leading points scorer in the tournament is Munster's Ronan O'Gara with 979 points from 77 matches.
* A total of 55 teams have so far taken part in the Heineken Cup: France 16; England 12; Wales 11; Italy 8; Scotland 4; Ireland 3; Romania 1.
* Tournament matches have been played at 83 venues across nine countries - with Stade de France set to be the 84th venue when Stade Francais host Harlequins in Round 3 on Saturday, 6 December.
* There are international players from 24 countries registered for the 2008/09 Heineken Cup
* A Pool record attendance of 152,981 fans went through the turnstiles for the 12 matches in Round 1 in October 2008.
* The record attendance for a Pool match is the 44,112 who saw Stade Francais Paris beat Sale Sharks at Parc des Princes in the 2006/07 competition. With 65,000 tickets already sold for the Stade Francais v Harlequins match at Stade de France that record will be smashed in Round 3.
* The Heineken Cup is broadcast in over 140 countries and territories worldwide.
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.