IRFU ready to explore private investment in provinces to boost income and sustain professional game
IRFU performance director David Nucifora has opened the door to the prospect of the part-privatisation of the provinces as the union looks at ways to sustain the professional game.
The Australian highlighted "affordability of the game" as the biggest problem he faces in his role and said that all avenues would be investigated with a view to sustaining competitiveness.
In New Zealand, the ownership of the Super Rugby franchises was put up for sale in 2012 and the Irish provinces could follow suit if wealthy individuals or consortiums showed interest.
The union would not be willing to cede much ground on central control of Irish players and the player development pathway, which represents a major stumbling block, but Nucifora said he is open to the idea of private investment.
"Everything is being looked at," he said when asked about part-privatisation. "Absolutely. We would consider everything if we thought that it was workable and achievable to be able to do that. There's a fair few different models that we can look at and see if that would suit Irish rugby.
"Would that work for us? I don't think there's anything that we don't consider. It's just a matter of finding what works best here for this system.
"We've got to keep thinking about ways to keep growing the finances within Irish rugby so that we can stay competitive."
Nucifora, meanwhile, has strongly defended his controversial decision to block Ruan Pienaar's contract extension earlier this year.
"It was a fairly clear-cut situation. Ruan has been a great servant for Ulster over seven years," he said. "Did we think it would be wise for him to stay nine years? No. I mean, that doesn't fit in with any of our plans.
"He's done a great job, but it's time to move on. When someone moves on people think, 'Gosh, we'll never replace him, we'll never find someone to fill that spot'. But there's always someone who comes through once that opportunity presents itself."