Qatar Airways announces its newest sport partnership as the Official Airline Partner of the United Rugby Championship (URC), and Official South African Airline Partner for European Professional Club Rugby. The World’s Best Airline, known for supporting sports globally, has entered into multi-year agreements with the top organisations in club rugby in recognition of the growth and passion demonstrated by rugby fans in key travel markets across Western Europe and South Africa.
The URC is one of three major professional rugby leagues in Europe, involving teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and now South Africa. The most successful teams from each league also go on to compete in the [Heineken] Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup against teams from the domestic leagues in England and France. For the first time in history both competitions, organised by EPCR, will include South African teams.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “At Qatar Airways, we bring the world and communities together – through travel, of course, but also through sport. Today, we continue that mission by providing greater access to fans to watch their favourite teams compete, and supporting URC players and coaches and South African teams competing in EPCR competitions as they make cross-hemisphere trips via Doha to match destinations.”
The three-year partnership kicked-off today with a celebration at Hamad International Airport in Doha. Inside the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker was joined by Martin Anayi, Chief Executive Officer of the URC, Anthony Lepage, Chief Executive Officer of the EPCR, Mark Alexander, President of the South Africa Rugby Union, Ali Price, scrum-half of the Glasgow Warriors and Johannes Goosen, full-back of the Vodacom Blue Bulls, to commemorate the partnership.
Martin Anayi, Chief Executive Officer of the United Rugby Championship, said: “Our league has greatly broadened its horizons in the past 12 months and we are honoured that Qatar Airways have become one of our key partners.
“Travel is at the heart of all of our competitions and this partnership will allow us to tap into the incredible expertise and knowledge available at Qatar Airways as they support our teams and fans on their journeys to some of the biggest games of the season.”
Qatar Airways are also partnering with SA Rugby as an associate sponsor of the URC competition in the southern hemisphere and their involvement was welcomed by Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby: “I have no doubt that Doha will become a very familiar and welcoming staging post for all our teams and staff.
“We are delighted to welcome Qatar to the family and to share this amazing new rugby journey literally and figuratively with them over the coming years.”
Anthony Lepage, Chief Executive Officer of EPCR, added: “We are very pleased to welcome Qatar Airways as our South African Airline Partner and enter into this partnership alongside the URC. As we welcome five South African clubs into the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, the support from Qatar Airways will be key in helping players and coaches travel to face new competition from clubs in England and France. We are entering a new global phase of our competitions and Qatar Airways will play a key part in delivering the pinnacle of club rugby competitions to more audiences than ever before.”
As part of the partnership, Qatar Airways will support the URC and EPRC grow the game globally and will soon be offering URC all-inclusive Travel Packages with Flights, hotels and match tickets. Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and across Africa, Asia and the Middle East for both men and women.
The URC features sixteen (16) teams, comprised of two (2) teams from Scotland, two (2) teams from Italy, four (4) teams from Wales, four (4) teams from Ireland, and since the 2021/22 season, four (4) teams from South Africa.
Of the sixteen (16) URC teams, eight (8) teams qualify for the top-tier Heineken Champions Cup. To qualify, a team must either be one of four Shield winners or one of the next four highest-ranked clubs in the final league table. Qualifying teams from the URC will compete against the top-qualifying teams from the French Top 14 and the English Premiership Rugby. The remaining eight (8) teams from the URC, as well as the remaining clubs from the Top 14 and Premiership Rugby, compete for the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Adding the United Rugby Championship (URC) and European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to its already extensive sports portfolio solidifies Qatar Airways as a brand committed to supporting sport across the globe. Qatar Airways is a leading global football supporter including FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, Paris Saint-Germain, FC Bayern München, Concacaf, CONMEBOL. Additionally, Qatar Airways is the official airline of The Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Series, GKA Kite World Tour and multiple equestrianism, padel, squash and tennis events.