July 25, 2012

Bankstone News has a little literary exercise for its readers this week. What does a rugby club have in common with an insurance company? See how many similarities you can think of and send them on a postcard to Bankstone News from the exotic holiday location of your choice. There’s no prize – but if you ever need to say a few words about an insurance company sponsoring a rugby club – and let’s face it who doesn’t at some point – you’ll be glad you’ve thought it all through in advance.

Need a few pointers? OK, how about: rugby clubs and insurance both have a strong commitment to fair play, decency and teamwork. Or… they both have a no-nonsense, hard drinking, masculine culture. Or they both appeal strongly to upwardly mobile lower middle class white-collar workers? No? Then how about: rugby clubs and insurance companies share a fondness for singing raucous songs about the saving of queens, the deflowering of virgins, pubic hair and masturbation?

OK, so Bankstone News doesn’t really know what it’s talking about. But you, Dear Reader, almost certainly do. So get those thoughts down on paper quick. Allianz Group Management Board Member and former Blondie drummer Clem Booth recently made his own attempt at this exercise when announcing a tie-up with the North London based Saracens club. Sadly the best he could come up with was “the club shares Allianz’s strong corporate social responsibility ethos.”

Quite what Saracens is getting out of the Allianz sponsorship deal – aside from a large wodge of cash and the privilege of hosting various grey-suited corporate sponsorship hospitality things – is unclear. But Allianz appears to hope the association will supply something of the sense of personality and identity it currently lacks.

So enthusiastic is CB about this latest sports-financial services partnership that he appears to be planning to move in with the club full time. There is “a strong emotional aspect” he said of the new links between his German employer and the so-called Sarries (yes, really). “For a non-tangible brand like Allianz,” he explained. “it quickly becomes the ‘home of the brand’ and a place of corporate pride for our employees.”

Not only is Allianz making itself at home at Saracens’ Copthall Stadium but it has also stuck up a bunch of signs re-naming it Allianz Park. Traditionalists may lament the passing of the old name – which commemorates the former meeting place of Hendon’s once prosperous and influential community of Egyptian Christians who had settled in the area after fleeing persecution by Mohammed Ali Pasha in the 1830s – but things being renamed by Germans is something we will all have to get used to in the years ahead.

Aside from the original Allianz Arena in Munich, we now also have the Allianz Stadium in Sydney and the newly rechristened Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice France, and Purley’s Allianz Playbarn. Saracens chairman Nigel Allianz (formerly Wray) pronounced himself delighted with the new partnership. “They give us money. We do as they say,” he did not, as far as Bankstone News is aware, at any point say. Nige also had a go at the ‘what links insurers and rugby clubs’ game, but didn’t get very far. “They are an organisation which shares our core values and principles,” he declared non-specifically.

“We are now starting to realise our commercial potential,” Nige went on to observe contendedly. “This deal represents a massive step forward for Saracens.” So that’s good.

But quite what the revered Coptic elder Fouad Shaffik who originally purchased the land on which the Allianz Park now stands from a local cider maker in the late 1840s would have thought is debatable. The sale of Copt Hall to the provocatively named Saracens nearly broke his heart and prompted local Copts to form the rival Crusaders club in retaliation.

Saracens, however, named according to their own publicity after “the famous desert warriors led by Saladin in the late 12th century who were renowned for their extreme mobility, and powers of endurance, which when allied to their bountiful enthusiasm, rendered them invincible” were indeed to prove more than a match for the Crusaders, who were forced to amalgamate with Saracens in 1878 and accept rebranding as simply Saracens.

A rump of recalcitrant Crusaders supporters attempted to resurrect the name a few years later but languished in relative obscurity for almost a century before enjoying a brief moment in the spotlight when their 1979 hit ‘Street Life’ topped the charts in the US, UK and – ironically – both Egypt and West Germany.


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