Ireland looking for new kit
Frankfurt - Germany's Puma has decided to stop sponsoring rugby in Europe, leaving the Irish Rugby Union team looking for a new kit provider on Thursday.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Puma's biggest sponsorship in the sport, said the firm would continue to supply kit to cover the 2013/14 rugby season.
"With the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, the 18-month time scale for the ongoing supply of kit allows us ample time to source a world class kit partner to replace the Puma brand," IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said in a joint statement with Puma.
Puma, whose shoes are worn by sprinter Usain Bolt and soccer player Cesc Fabregas, is trimming its product range and cutting back on less lucrative sponsorship deals to counter falling profits as part of its biggest re-organisation in 20 years.
Owner PPR, which also controls the Gucci luxury brand, is also shaking up management at the German company, with chief executive Franz Koch to leave in March.
A spokesperson for Puma declined to comment further. The company will publish annual results on February 14.
Ireland's Six Nations rivals Scotland announced that Italian company Macron would be their new kit supplier from July after agreeing Scottish rugby's most lucrative sponsorship deal.
Macron will replace Canterbury, a sportswear company from New Zealand, under the four-year agreement. The Italian company will also supply kit to Scottish clubs Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors.
Rugby will take centre stage in the sporting calendar from the start of February when the annual Six Nations tournament starts, featuring the top sides from the northern hemisphere.