Olympic champion Greg Rutherford frustrated by loss of Nike sponsorship deal

Greg Rutherford on top of the world after winning long jump gold at London 2012 last August.
Greg Rutherford on top of the world after winning long jump gold at London 2012 last August.

Nearly a year after winning long jump gold at London 2012, Olympic hero Greg Rutherford is struggling to find sponsorship.

Rutherford will always be remembered for his achievement in the Olympic Stadium on Super Saturday when he jumped a season’s best 8.31m to win on the evening of August 4.

But just six weeks away from the Diamond League Anniversary Games at the end of July, Rutherford is coming to terms with the loss of a long-term Nike sponsorship deal, saying he was unable to agree to reduced terms.

The 26-year-old said the end of his kit retainer – the bread and butter of a professional athlete’s income – has come as a ‘complete kick in the teeth’ and was not what he expected a year on from his Olympic triumph.

Without any income other than competition appearance fees and prize money, Rutherford says TV appearances and speaking engagements post-London 2012 have become a necessity to pay the mortgage, despite eating into his rest days from training.

Rutherford told The Telegraph: “I’m not poor. I’d be lying if I said I was. But if people believe that the reason I go on TV is because I love the sound of my own voice, that is completely and utterly wrong.

“Range Rover gave me a lease car that I can drive for free, which is amazing, and Omega gave me a watch. That’s all fantastic, and there have been some free clothes here and there, but ultimately it doesn’t put food on the table, so you are in a scenario where you are forced to do promotions and appearances.

“I thought I was quids in. I was sitting there thinking: ‘This is going to be brilliant. My Nike contract is up for renewal at the end of the year and I’m going to have all the other endorsements coming in’.

“All track and field athletes do the sport purely for the love of it, but people have to remember that you still have to earn a living.

“You can’t do athletics if you don’t. So after winning the gold I was thinking: ‘This will make everything easy. I won’t have to worry about finances and I can just concentrate on becoming the best athlete I can be’. But in reality it doesn’t work like that. Or it hasn’t in my case.”

Rutherford first signed with Nike in 2005, and said the reason given by the company for not offering an improved deal was that they were ‘concentrating on younger, up-and-coming athletes’. He claims the deal he was offered would probably have seen him earn less than on his old junior contract because of ‘horrible clauses’.

That is a situation he finds hard to take, especially given his strong start to the 2013 campaign, with his season’s best of 8.22m set at the Diamond League meet in Oregon, finishing third.

No longer tied to a kit sponsor, Rutherford made a point of wearing his Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club vest in his Diamond League opener in Shanghai last month.

He Tweeted at the time: “MKAC have shown more support for me than almost every other sponsor. Most walked away post Games. They stood behind me. So I wore the vest.”