England rugby chiefs renew shirt deal with O2

London (AFP) –

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England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) has been given a financial boost as the sport grapples with a bleak outlook after principal shirt sponsors O2 signed a new five-year deal.

The agreement, starting in September 2021 and understood to be worth £7.5 million ($10 million) per year, will extend the length of their partnership to three decades.

For the first time, the mobile network operator has pledged to equally fund the men's and women's game for the duration of the arrangement.

"O2's commitment to equally support both our elite teams is commendable," said RFU chief executive Billy Sweeney.

"It's great to collaborate with a partner that truly shares our same passion to see the women's game flourish and continue to grow for future generations to enjoy."

Last month the RFU called for government help due to the coronavirus pandemic, estimating losses of more than £100 million if the autumn internationals and Six Nations games take place behind closed doors.

The RFU has already reduced investment in the game, implemented salary reductions and made 140 people redundant.