Wednesday 25 April 2018

Money will talk when it comes to selling naming rights for Thomond

AMID all the coverage pre- and post-Marseille, and the subsequent hand-wringing about what might have been, viz-a-viz Munster's defeat to Toulon in the Heineken Cup semi-final on Sunday, an interesting, but related, story might have gone largely unnoticed last week.

It concerns the possibility of selling the naming rights to Thomond Park, a proposal that will, we are certain, draw approval and opposition in equal measure. Selling naming rights to stadia is nothing new, and certainly not in rugby, which is, lest you need reminding, a professional sport. And yet we can already sense the bubbling opposition to selling – or selling out, as some might have it – the rights to have Thomond Park in Limerick called after some insurance company or car manufacturer or electrical appliance.

There is, as always, a few of things to consider.

Like it or not, a major reason why Toulon beat Munster last Sunday was money. The French club is one of the richest in Europe and their buying power when it comes to bringing the creme de la creme of players to the Riviera was a major factor in them reaching this year's H-Cup final.

Munster simply don't have pockets that deep right now. And they probably never will unless some sugar daddy comes in waving the dosh. So commercial income is hugely important to an entity like Munster Rugby and getting their hands on such income must remain a priority in how they run their business.

Irish people can be notoriously precious about what their stadia are called – more so if one is named for a saint or a martyr or a patriot – and you can imagine the uproar if it was proposed to rename Austin Stack Park or Fitzgerald Stadium, say, Zanussi Park or Hyundai Stadium.

Thomond Park, however, might be easier to rechristen. How many people still refer to the Aviva Stadium as Lansdowne Road? And hasn't Musgrave Park in Cork already been rebranded as Irish Independent Park without much ado?

A 10-year deal for Thomond Park would bring in sizeable income for Munster Rugby, which would be used to strengthen the squad and maintain the province's push for a third Heineken Cup, or whatever that's going to be called from next season. Shouldn't that be the priority for the province and the supporters?

A name change for Thomond Park wouldn't diminish its standing as Munster's 16th man (maybe that should be 17th after the Red Army) and the Limerick venue won't lose any of its aura just because it's called after some business or product.

Suggestion 1: Energizer Stadium 'It Keeps Going and Going and Going...'

Suggestion 2: Tesco Park 'Every Little Helps'