The All Black jersey is now a little less black.

The players will no longer bear just the national emblem and the manufacturer's mark on their chests. They will carry, right in the middle, the letters AIG, which mean nothing to them, New Zealand or rugby except that the American insurance company has given the New Zealand Rugby Union an undisclosed sum for the privilege.

The Rugby Union is clearly counting on a subdued public reaction to the intrusion. In that, it has reason for confidence. There was considerable opposition when a discreet Steinlager logo was placed on the jersey in the mid-1990s. But since then, the emblazoning of corporate names across the front of playing strips has become commonplace, not least with the Wallabies, Springboks and the British rugby sides.

Nonetheless, the AIG logo is a matter of regret. A commercial-free jersey set the All Blacks apart and enhanced their brand worldwide. AIG's multimillion-dollar involvement does, as the Rugby Union is keen to stress, help provide the wherewithal to retain players and expand the game at the community level. That, however, comes at a cost. The All Black jersey has become just another playing strip.

Advertisement