Wednesday 13 December 2017

Our priority is to remain competitive on all fronts

Doug Howlett's appointment as a Corporate Ambassador is proving a big success
Doug Howlett's appointment as a Corporate Ambassador is proving a big success

Garrett Fitzgerald

Professional rugby is no different to any other business, so there are always medium-to-long-term projects going on off the field to ensure that we continue to develop as an organisation.

The redevelopment of Musgrave Park and the creation of the single training base at the University of Limerick are two of the major projects which are happening at present.

The single training base is at a design stage with UL architects at the moment and, as per our original plan, we still hope to move in there in July 2015.

There have been a couple of changes to the design over the past two or three months, but it is progressing and we are hopeful it will be up and running for the start of the season after next.

The creation last year of the new commercial board under the chairmanship of Niall FitzGerald has been very helpful and I believe it provides a level of expertise and assistance which is hugely beneficial to the development of Munster Rugby.

The board, which also includes Patrick Coveney (Greencore), David Cronin (UL Foundation), Leslie Buckley (Independent News & Media), Tony Keohane (Tesco), Ken Murphy (Boots) and John Herlihy (Google), has overseen the financial package in the redevelopment of Musgrave Park and they are also active in a number of other projects.

The board members bring so much experience to the table and they are all doing it in a voluntary capacity for the good of Munster Rugby. It adds greatly to our overall commercial strategy.

COMPETITIVE

There is less money in circulation in today's climate and that is not going to change, but we need to keep pace with other entities on a commercial front to ensure we remain competitive on the field at the top level.

The recent announcement by Greencore as sponsors of the Munster Rugby Academy for the next three years is a great boost, while the appointment of Doug Howlett as a Corporate Ambassador has also been of benefit.

We need to ensure that the structure is there to nurture players at all levels and to bring through as many homegrown players as possible to play for Munster and then supplement the squad with a number of top signings.

We know – and the players know – that we can't compete with the big money being offered by French clubs. But we feel that we can put a lot of things in place, such as player management, lifestyle, tradition and quality on and off the field, which will sway players.

There is a lot of emotion attached to the Munster jersey, a lot of history and tradition and these factors come into play also.

The development of the new training centre will increase what we can offer players, while ongoing success on the field is, of course, vital to our continued development.

Munster Rugby has grown into a big employer in the region and is a large economic contributor in the province.

That is one of the reasons we are actively pursuing, along with other entities, the development of a motorway between Limerick and Cork. It was in the plans, but then shelved when the economic crisis happened.

We are lobbying politicians and others to develop it, but not just for rugby purposes, but for the economic and social improvement it will bring to all six counties.

At the moment both cities – and every other city around the country – is linked to Dublin by a motorway, and Cork and Limerick are the only two cities not linked with each other. At present, the lack of a suitable motorway between Limerick and Cork is stifling progress and if we can see that on a rugby front, then I can only imagine what it must be like for other businesses.

Like everyone else, we need to continue to expand and increase our revenue streams.

We are blessed with some excellent sponsorship partners, especially in the difficult economic environment, but the announcement this week that Musgrave Park will host Il Divo in conjunction with the City of Cork Symphony Orchestra is a new and exciting development and one we are all looking forward to on June 21.

There is a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and a lot of off-field activities, not least a solution to the future of the Heineken Cup.

There is no doubt all of the Irish provinces want a six-nation European competition to continue and I would hope there will be a resolution found during the course of the Six Nations tournament.

The uncertainty is not helpful, on or off the field, but there is not a lot we can do about it at this point and we just need to ensure that we continue to make progress so that Munster Rugby remains competitive for years to come.

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