Sport Rugby

Sunday 4 December 2016

IRFU boss 'happy' with rugby calendar

Published 14/07/2016 | 02:30

IRFU CEO Philip Browne will represent the Pro12 when a committee from both the northern and southern hemispheres will discuss the problem next week. Picture Credit: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
IRFU CEO Philip Browne will represent the Pro12 when a committee from both the northern and southern hemispheres will discuss the problem next week. Picture Credit: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The dust has barely settled on Ireland's longest season but yesterday's Pro12 fixtures announcement was a reminder that the new campaign is just around the corner.

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After 362 days and 17 Tests, Joe Schmidt's side's season came to an end in South Africa last month and in light of the gruelling year, World Rugby have admitted that addressing the issue of the global calendar is chief amongst their concerns.

IRFU CEO Philip Browne will represent the Pro12 when a committee from both the northern and southern hemispheres will discuss the problem next week.

As it stands, there are no international Tests scheduled beyond 2019 but Browne admitted that the IRFU were reluctant to move the Six Nations as the commercial value will decrease.

In March, New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew threatened to stop the All Blacks playing Tests after 2019 unless improved terms could be agreed upon.

Argument

The argument from the southern hemisphere stems from the break that Super Rugby is forced to take every June when the northern hemisphere nations tour.

Instead, they would prefer the summer tours to be pushed forward until July, which would in turn affect the calendar in this part of the world.

"It's an extremely difficult problem," Browne maintained. "To be honest, we are reasonably happy with what we have.

"The difficulty is, the knee-jerk reaction is to add in more fixtures which is the last thing we should be doing. What we need to try and do is to have less fixtures of a higher value, if at all possible.

"The trouble with putting the June window back to July is, it presses things up in October, November because you're not going to get the players back until later.

"New Zealand would say, 'Well, if there's no change, well then we'll do away with the current international fixture schedule, and having matches on a once-off basis.' Personally, that would not be a terribly good idea. I don't think it'd necessarily do much for New Zealand rugby either.

"The outcome has to be a win-win for everyone. It's very hard to see how changing the season is not going to create a situation where there are winners and losers."

Browne also revealed that discussions between Connacht and the Galway City Council about possibly expanding the Sportsground were ongoing.

Connacht are hoping to build a stadium with a capacity of around 10,000 in the next four years and Browne admitted that was a realistic target, especially in light of Munster's struggle to regularly fill Thomond Park.

"The capacity obviously is probably not far off, it's the quality of the facilities is the issue," he said.

"We had a similar situation in the Aviva Stadium; when we built it people were saying, 'Ah, you're mad. You should have built a 65 or 70,000-capacity stadium, and if you have to go to a different site then so be it'.

"I'd rather have people beating the door down to try and get into the stadium than to have people saying, 'I don't like the weather today, I won't go'. Because it's easy to buy a ticket.

"It's about supply and demand, so I think the key is not to build something which is not going to be filled most of the time."

Irish Independent

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