Provinces to get €3.2m as IRFU confirm new sponsors
The IRFU have confirmed that they will have new sponsors at the end of next season, with Vodafone favourites to take over from mobile phone rivals Three.
Union chief executive Philip Browne refused to reveal the name of the new benefactors, but said the deal will be worth far less than the €50m reported and will be for a shorter term than the 10 years speculated.
"We have another sponsor in place lined up to take over (in June 2016)," he said.
"I'm not at liberty to say who they are, but I can say the figures that were bandied about in the media of €50m are so totally off the wall that I don't know where they came from. It is a fraction of that."
Ireland's Six Nations success has had a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the game here, with the IRFU committing €3.2m cash injection to the provinces at their Annual Council meeting, with the domestic game set for €800,000 in additional funding.
Browne stated that much of that €3.2m would be used by the clubs to compete with the big-spending French sides in the seasons to come.
"The reality is that we are not going to be able to match France," he said. "If any of the French clubs go on a shopping spree, then they go on a shopping spree. We are not in a position to match them.
"All we can do is do our damnedest to keep the key players that make our provinces competitive. And we want to protect the key players in the national team as well, because if we don't do that, and have our key players playing abroad, then we can't control their game management or a whole lot of things."
The union were able to post a €8.7m surplus thanks to prize money earned by Joe Schmidt's side, strong ticket sales and new broadcast agreements around the November internationals.
The IRFU took in €76.1m during 2014/15, with 61pc of that coming from the international game. Their expenditure was up €3m to €62.5m, with the bulk of that figure attributed to "player and management costs."
Union treasurer Tom Grace also highlighted the increasing strength of the French clubs, making it harder for the provinces to compete, while pointing to the importance of sustaining the Guinness Pro12.
He emphasised the threat to the union's finances of the government's desire to make certain matches 'free to air' on television, while saying they must keep an eye on the demand for, and price of, their tickets and corporate boxes - despite collecting €9m from 10-year ticket sales due to the improvement in the economy.
UL Bohemians' Martin O'Sullivan was elected as the IRFU's 128th president, taking over from Louis Magee.