The Queensland Reds will have a new naming rights sponsor and a new stadium for the inaugural 2006 Tooheys New Super 14 tournament.
The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) and Queensland Rail (QR) today announced that QR would be the team's major sponsor for at least the next five years. The QRU also announced that it had signed a five year deal to play its Brisbane Super 14 games at the 52,500 seat Suncorp Stadium.
"This is a fantastic day for Queensland Rugby, the Reds and their fans", said QRU CEO, Theo Psaros.
"The QRU and the Reds have the financial support of a new, long term major sponsor who is as committed to the game as we are, while the Reds and their fans will be able to enjoy Super 14 games in what is widely acknowledged as the best stadium for rugby in Australia. Our hearts may be at Ballymore but our heads say it's time to move.
"QR saw a long term opportunity to partner with another Queensland icon in the form of the Reds, at a time when rugby is preparing to take the next expansionary step with the addition of two new teams to the successful Super 12 competition", Mr Psaros said.
"Rugby's expansion plans mesh nicely with QR's own expansion plans, while Queensland Rugby's plans to further grow the game in the state's regional areas also fit neatly with QR's commercial and community interests", he said.
The value of the QR sponsorship was not revealed, however Mr Psaros said it was the highest sponsorship figure ever achieved for Reds jersey naming rights.
QR Chief Executive Officer, Bob Scheuber, said there was far more to the sponsorship than naming rights for the Reds.
"This sponsorship is an opportunity for QR to bring rugby union to the people of Queensland. We will be supporting the development of young up-and-coming players throughout Queensland, as well as the development of the sport itself", Mr Scheuber said.
Mr Psaros said that the QRU had signed a five year contract with Ogden IFC (Brisbane) Pty Ltd to play all of its Brisbane Super 14 games at the state-of-the-art world class Suncorp Stadium, which will host the 2006 Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand as well as the Tri-Nations game against South Africa.
He said that the decision to play Super 14 games at Suncorp Stadium had been made to further the interests of Rugby in Queensland, both financially and developmentally.
"If the game is to move forward, and to attract more spectators and sponsors, they need to be accommodated in a modern, comfortable, spacious and easily accessible football stadium", he said.
"There are 52,500 seats at Suncorp, modern corporate entertainment areas and excellent access to public transport, rail and bus.
"Reds crowds have grown each of the last ten years and our own experience and the feedback we have been given by sponsors and spectators is that the Ballymore stadium can no longer meet their needs", he said.
"The QRU has conducted an exhaustive series of feasibility studies on a possible move for the past three years, and test marketed the new venue by playing two Super 12 games there in 2004 and 2005.
"Once we had all the information at our fingertips and took the sentimentality out of it, it became pretty obvious what the decision should be", Mr Psaros said.
"Relocating major games from Ballymore will involve making new arrangements for Ballymore's Perpetual Ground Members and other long term ticket holders.
"The details have yet to be finalised but we will work with those long term supporters to achieve a satisfactory result. We're conscious of their contribution to the development of the game and of Ballymore", Mr Psaros said.
QRU Chairman Robin Thomson said that the future use of Ballymore would also require further investigation and consideration.
"The Ballymore stadium is still a valuable asset which will be used for games below Super 14 level, such as next year's Australian Provincial Championship, club matches and games involving juniors and schoolboys. We had 125 games there this year and we will still play games there next year", he said.
"Ballymore will also continue as the administrative centre for Queensland Rugby and as the place where the Reds and other representative teams assemble and train, so it will not be demolished, sold off or closed down", said Mr Thomson.
"It will continue to be the traditional home of Queensland Rugby, but the future of the professional game lies at Suncorp", he said.
Mr Psaros said that there was a possibility of Super 14 games being played outside Brisbane, while on the next level down, Premier Rugby was now a state competition with the possibility of a north Queensland team taking part at some time in the future.
Rugby is definitely on the move in Queensland: playing numbers in the country are up and both we and QR are excited about the future.