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Unlikely support for Eamon Ryan's 'absolutely cracked' rugby TV plan

EAMON Ryan was meeting TV bosses today as some Fianna Fail TDs supported his "absolutely cracked" plan to make rugby games free-to-air.

The Minister for Communications' proposal was expected to come in for further criticism following a scathing reaction from the Irish Rugby Football Union's (IRFU).

Satellite TV chiefs were expected to tell Mr Ryan exactly what they thought of the plan, which would see Six Nations and Heineken Cup games shown on RTE or TV3.

But Mr Ryan has received the unlikely backing of Fianna Fail backbenchers, as well as the support of his own party -- though Sports Minister Mary Hanafin has refused to say whether she favours the plan.

Mr Ryan was meeting Sky TV chiefs in Government Buildings today.

The IRFU, which described the plan as "absolutely cracked", has been invited to appear before the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sports and Tourism on June 2.


However, backbench FF TDs hit out at the nature of the language used by the IRFU.

Niall Collins, who represents Limerick West, said he believes there's a strong argument to have free-to-air.

He pointed to the "huge amount of money" the Exchequer has put into the IRFU and soccer and criticised the fact that many families are forced to go to a pub to watch high-profile rugby matches.

Clare TD Timmy Dooley criticised the language used by the IRFU as "over the top".

The IRFU said it receives €16m a year in TV revenue for the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup and that revenue would fall to €5m if Mr Ryan pushed ahead with his plans.

Earlier this week, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said Ireland's best players would move abroad in search of higher wages if the initiative was implemented.

He insisted "there is nothing broken" about the current arrangement in which the broadcasting rights are sold to the highest bidder.