World Rugby’s Hall of Fame in the town has secured £600,000 of sponsorship from Swiss watch brand Tudor.
The sponsorship was announced at the budget meeting on Tuesday, February 27.
The Advertiser was the only media outlet present for the meeting.
The council did not state the sponsor is Tudor, but the Advertiser can reveal the watchmaker’s involvement after discovering an announcement on the firm’s website.
Council leader Michael Stokes announced £600,000 of sponsorship for the attraction after an article blasting the council’s handling of the Hall of Fame’s finances was published in Private Eye – see the fact box for more information.
Cllr Stokes said the article was based on a misunderstanding of the figures.
The article criticises a “jolly” which saw Cllr Stokes flown to Japan last year at a cost of £5,000 to the tax payer.
A council spokesperson said: “The visit to the World Cup draw in Japan has already resulted in opportunities for promotion at Rugby World Cup 2019 and closer links with host cities.
“This visit cost less than £5,000 for flights, accommodation and all other expenses (including translation) for the leader and executive director to both attend.
“Other opportunities arising from the visit, including with potential sponsors, continue to be explored.”
At the council meeting on Tuesday Cllr Stokes defended the trip following the announcement of sponsorship.
He said the trip allowed him to speak to many important figures, including the Prime Minister of Japan.
He said: “Anyone who understands the basics of Japanese culture would appreciate the importance of these face-to-face meetings.”
He argued that £600,000 is: “Not bad for a £5,000 jolly.”
Rugby Labour responded by questioning whether £600,000 was enough given the expenditure on the attraction.
One Labour councillor suggested Cllr Stokes would need to go on another ‘jolly’ to secure adequate funding.
Labour councillor Claire Edwards said: “I actually welcome the fact that you have secured sponsorship, but you have not mentioned the sponsor. The devil is in the detail.”
The Conservative group said Rugby Labour had been negative about the Hall of Fame. Labour Cllr Mike Brader said: “I don’t agree with this conflation that because we have asked questions about the funding we don’t support the town or we don’t support the Hall of Fame.”
What did the Private Eye article claim?
The article, published by an anonymous contributor, brands the Hall of Fame the “Hall of Shame” and accuses Rugby Borough Council of a lack of planning.
It states the attraction, which opened above the town’s library, art gallery and museum in 2016, was forecast to generate £500,000 a year for the council.
It claims the annual cost of the Hall of Fame is nearly £350,000, in addition to £1.2 million reportedly spent on developing the building. And that so far ticket sales have totalled £15,000.
Cllr Stokes said the article was based on a misunderstanding of figures.
He said the £1.2 million was the complete cost of running the attraction over four years.
A council spokesperson said there was never a forecast of £500,000.