Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is in talks to renew its sponsorship of the Six Nations rugby tournament in a deal that would stoke fresh controversy over the taxpayer-backed lender.
I understand that RBS is likely to table a firm offer to renew its Six Nations association, which is due to expire after the 2013 championship, in the coming weeks.
Sponsorship industry sources say an extension would be likely to cost significantly more than the existing contract, which is worth several million pounds annually.
A new agreement between RBS and the committee which oversees the sponsorship rights would be contentious because the bank is only just starting to emerge from the crisis that left millions of its customers without access to their money following a software failure.
The bank opted to cancel hospitality activity at this year's Wimbledon tennis championships because of the fiasco, reflecting the sensitivity of the taxpayer-backed lender's expenditure on elite sporting events.
An RBS spokesman said tonight that "no decision has been made" about renewing the Six Nations sponsorship, although it has only a limited period within which to negotiate exclusively before other prospective partners can engage in talks.
Since being rescued by taxpayers in 2008, RBS has ditched many of its expensive sporting associations, accumulated by Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive, as he tried to establish the bank as a global brand.
That said, RBS insiders say that sponsoring the Six Nations, which it has done since 2003, has delivered tangible commercial value to its business.