Connacht's bright future
How the deal was done
The IRFU received a request from the Connacht Branch to undertake an examination of the game in Connacht. Arising from discussions between delegates of the Connacht Branch and the IRFU Management Committee, it was agreed that an independent assessment should be conducted.
Specialist sports consultancy ASMT were appointed to conduct the evaluation and report jointly to Steve Cunningham, president of the Connacht Branch, and Finbarr Crowley, chairman of the Management Committee.
The report involved a complete assessment of all areas of professional rugby in Connacht.
1 An independent Professional Game Board (PGB) will oversee all aspects of the professional game in Connacht for the next three years. The Connacht PGB, whose activities will also include generating additional commercial revenues, will have the responsibility to prepare the budget annually for agreement and approval by the IRFU.
The Connacht PGB will undertake a review on management and coaching structures and personnel, with specific recommendations for any further structure to be discussed with and agreed by the IRFU.
2 Increased support from the IRFU based on recommendations of the new PGB.
3 Commitment from Leinster, Munster and Ulster to allow more movement of selected players to Connacht.
WHO ARE THE PGB?
Jimmy Staunton -- A successful Connacht businessman and founding partner of Elverys Sports, Ireland's largest sports retailer.
Conor McGuinness -- Former Connacht scrum-half who won 14 caps for Ireland between 1997 and 1999.
Damian Devany -- Marketing consultant and former marketing director of O2.
Steve Cunningham -- Business consultant and former Connacht Branch president.
Pat O'Connor -- Swinford solicitor and former president of the Law Society.
Liam Rhatigan -- Managing partner of RBK Accountants.
Simon Heaslip -- Galway businessman and entrepreneur.
WHAT THEY SAID
Ireland coach Declan Kidney:
"This is a big step for both Connacht and Irish rugby. I have always believed that the Ireland team can only become stronger with four competitive provincial teams. Competition for places, in particular in a number of key positions, has been something we have been trying to develop with the Ireland team over the last 18 months and this can only add to this, as game time is essential for the development of players."
IRFU CEO Philip Browne:
"The new arrangement will provide more value to the national team by providing 'accelerated development' opportunities through guaranteed game time for players who currently can not receive such opportunity in their home province. The commitment received by the other three provinces in the movement of players to Connacht is to be commended."
Connacht CEO Gerry Kelly:
"This is a shot in the arm for professional rugby in Connacht. It is an endorsement by the IRFU that Connacht is a core element of the Irish rugby family and we believe that a bright and sustainable future is in store for professional rugby in the west."
FIVE KEY POINTS
1 Leinster, Ulster and Munster have provided a firm commitment to the movement of selected players to Connacht. This will allow Connacht to develop the strength of Ireland-qualified players through all four provinces. Additional coaching and management support will be provided to ensure increased competitiveness.
2 The IRFU have committed to a three-year period of firm support, with a "significant increase in investment" and equal funding in terms of player contract support.
3 Connacht believe the IRFU "fully accept" the possibility of Connacht taking a place of another province in the Heineken Cup.
4 Connacht coach Eric Elwood's contract is extended by two years.
5 Negotiations have begun with other players to extend contracts.