Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

ASB announce sponsorship of All Blacks-Lions series

Sonny Bill Williams covered up the BNZ logos on his Blues jersey during a Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams covered up the BNZ logos on his Blues jersey during a Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images

Another financial institution has thrown its support behind rugby in New Zealand, in the wake of All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams covering up a bank logo on his Blues jersey.

ASB, already an All Blacks sponsor, has announced it will sponsor this year's Lions tour.

ASB executive general manager marketing Roger Beaumont said under the terms of its contract with New Zealand Rugby, the sporting body allocated players to sponsors for promotional purposes, "so which individual players we use is not something we have any influence over".

"We are aware of the conscientious objection clause for some players' contracts and respect the fact that there will be players with diverse backgrounds and beliefs," he said.

"As an All Blacks and Lions tour sponsor, our commercial relationship is with the team and the tour rather than individual players."

In addition to sponsoring the tour, ASB will be the sponsor of the 500-strong group of volunteers who will assist in running the series, and will be giving more than 25 student rugby players a chance to attend a pre-match captain's run and a leadership breakfast with former All Blacks.

The announcement comes after Sonny Bill Williams covered up the BNZ logo on his Blues jersey with tape during his Super Rugby comeback against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

It was done due to Williams' religious beliefs, invoking a conscientious objection clause in his contract with New Zealand Rugby.

A New Zealand Rugby spokesman told the Herald any player could lodge a conscientious objection to promoting finance, alcohol, tobacco, gambling companies and banks.

The Herald has learned that Williams will be given a jersey without the BNZ and Investec logos, probably for the Blues' next match against the Hurricanes at Eden Park this weekend.

Prime Minister Bill English weighed in on the controversy, saying he found it hard to understand why one player would act differently to the rest.

A BNZ spokeswoman said the bank didn't have a problem with Williams' action.

- NZ Herald

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