Thursday 23 February 2017

IRFU undo 10 years of expansion in 10 days

David Kelly

David Kelly

We bumped into Trevor Brennan on Saturday night. As usual, he cut through the bull***t. "Where were all the kids?"

Saturday's farrago was some achievement by the IRFU. How to undo 10 years of rugby expansion in 10 days.

Not only did thousands of euro disappear into a black hole on Saturday night, thanks to the swathes of empty seats -- but the sport caught the briefest and most discomfiting glimpse of what the next 10 years may become.

After the neat trick whereby so many loyal supporters and club members were disenfranchised so ruthlessly by the wheezes in marketing and accounts, a golden opportunity to spread the rugby gospel was lost.

And yet, if one dares to suggest that thousands of kids could have been afforded the opportunity to watch their national team play the sport's world champions, the response from the nabobs at Lansdowne Road is derisive and rooted in snobbery.

They will still have an opportunity to extend such an invitation over the next three weekends, but one senses that they will remain as detached as always from the reality of the current crisis facing them. Some trick to emulate, and indeed comfortably surpass, the FAI's cack-handed ticketing policy.

Quite how this will play out in Government corridors will be interesting. As Eamon Ryan threatens to withdraw the cosy relationship between the IRFU and Sky TV, will he have been impressed by the organisation's chaotic economic policy?

It's not the cleverest approach to wiping out a €38m bank debt -- those bankers can't have been too impressed either -- and Ryan may also well consider that if the IRFU aren't interested in benefiting a wider audience, then maybe it should be the job of the Government.

Quite apart from the ticketing shambles, jersey-gate also mocks the supposedly bright sparks in their new Dublin 4 offices. Ireland had to change every single one of their commemorative jerseys at half-time.

"The ultra-modern fabrics and construction techniques that give the kit the strong and lightweight high-performance demanded by today's players", which will set punters back a cool €60, apparently rip when you fold your arms.

Can't see many of them shifting.

The embarrassments just kept on coming. You're not allowed to take drink into the Aviva stands, but at half-time on Saturday, a competition winner appeared on screen, replete with pint in hand.

You couldn't make it up. Oh, and the roof is still leaking. Never mind letting the kids in. Perhaps it might be an idea to put them in charge.

Irish Independent

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