Grenfell Fire

Ulster Rugby will continue with Kingspan sponsorship despite Grenfell controversy

Survivors and bereaved relatives accused Ulster Rugby of “showing absolute disrespect” for the victims of the tragedy

  • July 19, 2023
Protestors outside the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast in January 2022. Picture: Niall Carson

Ulster Rugby has agreed to extend to its on-shirt sponsorship deal with Kingspan, despite the ongoing controversy over the use of firm’s products in Grenfell Tower in London.

In 2017, a fire at the west London tower block killed 72 people. A group representing survivors and bereaved relatives accused Ulster Rugby of “showing absolute disrespect” for those impacted by the tragedy.

The Irish insulation firm is Ulster Rugby’s shirt sponsor and also holds naming rights to its home stadium in Ravenhill, south Belfast.

In a statement, Ulster Rugby confirmed the extension, “which will see Kingspan remain on the senior men’s jersey, and selected leisurewear, for the upcoming season”.

It said: “The Irish-owned business has an existing 10-year contract with the club until the end of the 2023/24 season for the naming rights of Kingspan Stadium.”

The official inquiry into the blaze has previously heard evidence criticising Kingspan’s business practices. But Kingspan has insisted its K15 insulation product made up just 5 per cent of the insulation in the tower block and was used without its recommendation.

It also said the exterior cladding, which it did not make, was deemed by the inquiry to be the “principal reason” for the fire’s rapid spread.

“Today’s announcement shows an absolute disrespect for all those affected by the Grenfell tragedy. We have met with Jonny Petrie [the Ulster Rugby chief executive] and his team multiple times during their previous sponsorship deal,” the Grenfell United committe said in a statement.

“We urged him and the board to cut all ties with Kingspan, including sharing with them a large file of evidence from the public inquiry. This same evidence was enough for Mercedes to cut ties with Kingspan for their Formula One team in 2021. Instead, Ulster Rugby have decided to disregard these facts, and not just cut previous ties, but to extend their deal.”

The group urged supporters of Ulster Rugby to stand with them in demanding the club reverse the sponsorship decision. The British gvernment wrote to Ulster Rugby in 2021 to ask it to reconsider its relationship with Kingspan while the inquiry continues.

In 2022, protesters demonstrated outside the team’s stadium to demand the club severs ties with the company. Earlier this year, police launched an investigation after graffiti referencing Grenfell Tower was painted on the Kingspan stadium.

In 2021, Formula One team Mercedes announced it had ended its sponsorship deal with Kingspan, saying it was “not appropriate” to continue.