Saturday 25 March 2017

From the stands: Corporate rugby fans vote with their cash

A half-empty Aviva Stadium for yesterday's clash with Samoa will set off more grumbles that the IRFU have lost the run of themselves on ticket pricing for ordinary fans.

But ticket prices for the November internationals are a mere pittance compared with the eyewatering charges for corporate packages on offer for the Six Nations clashes at Lansdowne Road.

And they are selling fast (in fact, some have been sold out) despite being by far the most expensive in the entire championship.

For £1,175 (€1,383) Bath Abbot Corporate Hospitality -- one of the big players at the luxury end -- are offering hospitality in the Havelock Suite at the Aviva for Ireland-England clash. The package includes drinks reception, complimentary bar, four-course luncheon with fine wines, half-time drinks, post-match canapes, interviews with current Irish players and a guest speaker.

Similar packages for Ireland-France have already sold out. An accommodation and ticket only package (two nights at the Maldron Hotel) comes in at £645 (€759) for the England game. So how does that compare with Cardiff, Edinburgh and London? Wales versus England at the Millennium Stadium (just a three-course lunch but tickets for a private box with your own balcony) come in at £795 (€935).

Scotland v Ireland at Murrayfield with similar hospitality in the prestige Thistle Suite and premium match tickets comes in at £495 (€582) -- well under half the price of the most expensive package at the Aviva. The Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham with all the corporate bells and whistles in the Orchard Enclosure 20 metres from the East Stand comes in at £625 (€735).

So why is Ireland v England at Lansdowne Road so expensive? The answer, according to Bath Abbot, is demand. "England playing in Dublin is by the far the most popular fixture in the Six Nations calender. It's as simple as that," a spokeswoman said.

* * * * *

DUBLIN, Kerry, Cork, Tyrone and Down. The last five standing. The final frontier for the tradition of not appointing a football manager from outside the county.

Meath pondered long and hard before appointing Seamus McEnaney, with some happy to go outside the county while as many wanted to stick with one of their own. The practice of appointing outside managers flies in the face of a basic tenet of the GAA.

The Association has flourished because it is built on local foundations. Your family, your neighbours, your parish, your club, your county. Winning is not everything, winning with your own is.

So when a club dilutes its local players with outsiders, it may gain some measure of success, but it loses the right to say we won.

Meath may win the next five All-Ireland titles under Seamus McEnaney but they will never lose the taunt that they had to get an outsider in to help them to do it

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IT'S a sign of the times, unfortunately, that RTE is making a programme about the GAA and this latest wave of emigration. They should use Kerry as their template. From January to July this year, 84 Kerry club players moved to America, 56 left for Great Britain, 37 to Australia and four to Canada.

Meanwhile, 16 others transferred from their home clubs due to changing work circumstances. That's almost 200 players who left the Kingdom in six months. Elsewhere, Louth midfielder Brian White is also Australia-bound, along with team-mates Mick Fanning and John O'Brien. This week, Wexford's PJ Banville revealed that he's also heading Down Under. No shortage of stories for the RTE programme, alas.

* * * * *

WHEN Stephen McGann played and scored for Limerick against Athlone on October 30, aged 15 years and 358 days, he became Limerick's youngest ever player, beating the record of Vinny Prendergast, who was 16 years and three months when he made his debut

However, the question is: was he the youngest player to score in the League of Ireland? According to statistician Gary Spain, the youngest LoI player was Liam O'Shea, who played for Waterford v Limerick in March 1964, aged 15 years and 200 days.

Jerome Reilly, Fergus McDonnell, Damian Lawlor, Seán Ryan

ssport@independent.ie

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