The New Zealand Warriors have been doing it tough in 2020, but their tumultuous season has hit a dramatic new low.
With the team already forced to relocate to Australia - away from family, friends and loved ones - the club is now facing a significant financial crisis.
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The New Zealand-based outfit have reportedly been informed that they can no longer use long-term partner Vodafone as the club's naming rights sponsor.
The telecommunications giant has sponsored the Warriors for the last 22 years and has two years left on a deal that's understood to be worth around $1 million per season for the club.
However, according to the NZ Herald, Vodafone and the club have been told that the current deal is set to be banned in its current form.
The reason being is a conflict with the NRL's major sponsor and naming rights partner - Telstra - a telecommunications rival of Vodafone.
Telstra has been a naming rights sponsor of the NRL since 2015.
The NZ Herald report suggests that Vodafone could continue to sponsor the Warriors if it forfeits the naming rights component of the agreement - an option the company does not seem willing to entertain.
“The Warriors have been advised their naming rights deal with us is in conflict with the game-wide rights of Telstra,” the publication quoted a Vodafone insider.
“The NRL aren’t going to grant an exemption beyond the current season. All they offered was a derisory non-naming rights option as an alternative.
“We’re gutted … the NRL has told us our name isn’t welcome. This feels like another example of the Warriors getting the rough end of the stick.”
Current deal in conflict with Telstra’s naming rights
The Warriors were asked earlier in the season to take down Vodafone signage at their Central Coast training base, in a sign the sponsorship deal was under threat.
Interim NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told the NZ Herald the situation was regrettable but justified, considering Telstra's massive investment in the NRL competition.
“Telstra has been the naming rights partner of the premiership for a long period of time and invest significantly in the game,” Abdo was quoted. “All clubs benefit from this investment.”
Abdo says the NRL's efforts over the years to help the Warriors and Vodafone find a solution to the issue have proven unsuccessful.
“It’s unfortunate that the Warriors and Vodafone have not been able to come up with a mutually beneficial solution, despite the NRL working closely on potential options to try and retain Vodafone as a partner for the Warriors.”