JONATHAN Sexton, the Irish rugby No 10, signals his intention to play abroad and there is a mild outbreak of panic. Robbie Keane, the Irish soccer No 10, has an impressive range of clubs on his CV and nobody seems to mind. Why the difference?
The key factor is the success of the IRFU in controlling the market and limiting competition. Phillip Browne and the IRFU have done an exceptional job. His FAI counterpart must wish he had as much control over soccer as the IRFU has over rugby.
In some respects, the IRFU is closer to the US model of sport than the European version. In America, the leagues control competition between teams to a greater extent than is the case in Europe. In the States, a team finishing bottom of a league is given a helping hand by a better draft pick from the college talent pool. In Europe, a team finishing bottom of the English Premier League is relegated to a less lucrative division.
The IRFU manages its teams to ensure their financial health. It limits the potentially damaging aspects of competition.
It centrally contracts players, thereby avoiding a situation where Munster and Leinster might get into a bidding war. It does not stop competition from abroad, as the Sexton situation illustrates, but it does deal with potentially damaging competition between clubs in Ireland.
By doing so, the IRFU also avoids the competition for players between the national team and the provinces. There is less of the conflict one finds between the English national rugby coach and the Premiership. The players have a less gruelling schedule than they might have in other countries and the IRFU protects its playing assets.
To date, the IRFU seems to have convinced others to go along with its stance. This is particularly so when it comes to the sale of broadcasting rights and the distribution of revenue. The IRFU convinced the Minister for Communications not to list Heineken Cup games under the EU 'Television Without Frontiers' directive. To do so would have meant selling the rights to free-to-air TV.
It was claimed that, in these circumstances, the IRFU would have had a weaker hand in bargaining for a share of the revenue, which plays an important part in financing the game here. Removing Sky from the competition for the rights would have lowered their value.
But there's a downside. The greater competition among English clubs means more of them have a chance of breaking through into European competition. As things stand, we will not see a Blackrock or Cork Constitution in the Heineken Cup.
And some Connacht supporters might feel that the IRFU's contract management contributes to their better players departing. But these might be small prices to pay for the overall financial health of the game.
Both Sexton and Browne face challenges ahead. Sexton will face opposing teams more often than he would have under the IRFU player welfare programme.
Browne's big fight will be the English and French clubs' threat to the Heineken Cup. They believe they attract the biggest audiences and bring the greater revenues and, consequently, want a bigger slice of the cake.
There have already been rumblings about the legality of the Irish proposal to cap the number of foreign players in Ireland. The IRFU claims it fosters Irish talent. Europe likes greater movement of workers. In addition, it may be only a matter of time before someone asks the EU to examine the preferential treatment of sportspeople in Irish tax law thanks to Charlie McCreevy.
Despite the occasional loss of players such as Sexton, Irish fans will hope Browne continues to keep a tight control of Irish rugby.