Allianz has broken its sponsorship contract with Saracens, according to media reports today, weeks after it emerged the club would be relegated for breaches of salary cap rules.
Sports marketing experts previously told PRWeek the German insurance group would be the most likely sponsor to ditch the embattled club after it was relegated to second-tier rugby for failing to adhere to the salary cap for several seasons and misleading the public about its position until November.
The move is a costly blow to Saracens. The Allianz sponsorship package is worth about £2m per season and was due to run until 2021. Allianz declined PRWeek's request for comment and still has details about its Saracens partnership on its website at the time of writing.
Compounding the situation is news that the RFU will slash funding to all second-tier teams – including Saracens – next season.
Several experts, including former Synergy chief executive Tim Crow and Pitch Marketing Group managing partner Adam Raincock, predicted the Saracens scandal would prove too toxic for the insurer to stomach.
Today, Calacus managing director David Alexander went a step further, warning that Saracens' reputation may not recover.
"A financial brand such as Allianz is rooted in integrity and cannot ever be seen to associate with brands that do not match those attributes," he said.
"How can an insurer be trusted and reassuring if it aligns itself to brands that have been found guilty of breaking the rules and of subterfuge?
"Saracens will now forever be tarnished with rule-breaking, where once they were admired for their sporting excellence, and that is an association Allianz cannot afford to be a part of."
The Saracens scandal is a classic case of how not to manage crisis communications and has been described as the greatest PR disaster in club rugby history.