Wednesday 28 June 2017

Publicans furious over Good Friday rugby match

Barry Duggan

FURIOUS publicans will be hit in the pocket after a high-profile clash between Ireland's biggest rugby rivals was scheduled to take place on Good Friday.

The Magners' league rugby clash between Munster and Leinster will be held in Thomond Park stadium in Limerick on April 2, it was confirmed last night.

Those attending the game will be able to buy alcohol at the new stadium. But publicans in the city will not be in a position to garner any business from the 26,000 people expected to attend the match. The fixture is a sell-out.

Well-known Limerick publican and former President of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), Dave Hickey, said that having the game on Good Friday was going to greatly affect business in the pubs around Limerick city.

Mr Hickey, who runs South's pub on O'Connell Avenue, sits on the National Executive of the VFI.

"I think this is terrible having the match on Good Friday when Limerick city is going through a terrible time business wise," Mr Hickey said.

"Thousands of people who don't go to the match come into the pubs across Limerick, and indeed the country, to watch the game in the pubs as they might not have the channels at home."

Mr Hickey said there was "not a hope in the world" of a district court judge granting an exemption for public houses on Good Friday. "We have done everything to get the match moved. There will be 26,000 people coming into Limerick that day. We have lobbied this issue and contacted the rugby people. There is still time to get the fixture changed," Mr Hickey added.

Preference

A spokesman for Munster rugby said it was their preference that the game be played on the Saturday of the Easter weekend.

Competition organisers Celtic Rugby scheduled the match for Good Friday following consultations with host broadcasters Setanta Sports. Management at Thomond Park Stadium will be able to sell alcohol to thirsty punters on the night of the game as the venue is covered by a National Stadiums' Licence.

With kick-off scheduled for 8.05pm, it is understood that the bars in the grounds can open two hours ahead of the game and remain open an hour after it has finished.

Two rugby clubs, Shannon and UL Bohemian, both have club bars at Thomond Park also.

When Munster are playing at Thomond Park, both clubs are packed with supporters, adding greatly to the coffers of the rugby clubs.

Should they wish to open on the day of the game, they must apply for a club exemption licence at the local district court.

Mayor of Limerick and former publican Kevin Kiely said the laws covering the sale of alcohol in pubs were "outdated and stupid".

"We have to move on from this situation. As far as I am concerned, these laws should be consigned to the past if we are to compete as a modern European city," he added.

Irish Independent

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