Sunday 4 December 2016

Why Alex White should not interfere with what is best for the future of Irish rugby

Fintan Drury

Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30

Ireland’s Sean O’Brien (left) and Jonathan Sexton with the Six Nations trophy at Murrayfield, Scotland. Photo: Brendan Moran/ Sportsfile
Ireland’s Sean O’Brien (left) and Jonathan Sexton with the Six Nations trophy at Murrayfield, Scotland. Photo: Brendan Moran/ Sportsfile

A much loved elderly family member, who played club rugby throughout his youth and gained provincial honours, used to row with me about how the onset of professionalism was ruining Irish rugby. Invariably at the end of a weekend meal and the obligatory bottle of wine we would argue - sometimes too strenuously - about the rights and wrongs of players being paid to play for their province and, perish the thought, their country.

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I would painstakingly argue the financial dynamics involved both for the IRFU and the player and how it would all evolve into something that could grow and further popularise his sport. The very idea that he would need to have a satellite dish or to pay a subscription to watch the Five, sorry Six Nations on television would have been complete anathema but, of course, once a sport moves from amateur to professional status the broadcast transition must follow.

The decision by Communications Minister Alex White to take a memo to Cabinet would appear to represent more than just a Labour minister rattling a safe and appealing publicity can because British Labour and Conservative MPs in Wales were equally quick out of the blocks in their opposition to the CEO of Six Nations, John Feehan, referencing the potential to take the product to pay TV.

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