Experts reject IRFU warning on free TV deal
RUGBY bosses have not made a convincing argument they will lose upwards of €12m if the Government makes rugby matches free on Irish TV, experts claimed yesterday.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has repeatedly warned it would lose €12m if Heineken Cup and Six Nations games were made free-to-air by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan.
But Dr Paul Rouse of University College, Dublin (UCD), told the Oireachtas committee on communications the IRFU's figures just don't add up.
And former RTE chairman and Professor of Communications in Dublin City University (DCU) Dr Farrell Corcoran told the committee there was a suspicion some of the financial estimates were not accurate.
Mr Rouse, who lectures on modern sporting organisations, said he had been surprised by the IRFU chiefs' claims.
"They imagine the IRFU is going to be entirely penalised and that the entire money they receive from the pool will be withdrawn from them," Mr Rouse said.
And he queried why Ireland would be financially punished when France has made its Six Nations matches free-to-air.
"It seems to me to be case unproven," Mr Rouse told cross-party TDs and Senators.
The IRFU has long-argued that if the matches were free-to-air, Ireland's star performers would be forced abroad where they can earn better wages, leading to the demise of all four provincial sides, and local clubs would also struggle.
The IRFU was unavailable for comment last night.
Currently, the Six Nations is available free-of-charge on RTE, after the station won the rights until 2013.
The Heineken Cup, in contrast, is broadcast on pay television and is only available on domestic television two hours after the final whistle.
Under the Department of Communication's proposals, both competitions would be added to a "free-to-air" list and would guarantee they are broadcast free of charge.
An independent consultants report on the cost of making the matches free will be submitted to Mr Ryan next month.