A FEW weeks back, the IRFU contacted media outlets in the wake of its new sponsorship deal for domestic rugby with Ulster Bank. The announcement of the deal, said the IRFU, was "an important phase in the continued development of Irish Rugby and the domestic game".
The union's communications manager Karl Richardson then asked that the All-Ireland League be referred to in future by journalists as the Ulster Bank League, an acknowledgement of sorts for its willingness to invest in the game.
The missive concluded by saying that the bank and the union would be "rolling out further support and guidelines in the coming weeks".
One wonders if the Ulster Bank is already nervous about this "further support". Surely the bank's marketing people got the jitters when a full round of games in the league was fixed for 2.30 last Saturday afternoon, just as anyone who is interested in rugby in Ireland was settling in to watch the Italy game in the first round of the Royal Bank of Scotland Six Nations Championship? RBS Six Nations versus Ulster Bank League -- there could be only winner in that contest.
It was sheer lunacy that this clash was allowed to occur at a time when the league needs all the oxygen of publicity and support it can get. It is debatable whether there should even be domestic league games on the same day as an international Test, never mind kicking off at the same time.
Last weekend's games were a mere postscript on a big rugby weekend. If the IRFU want others to take its domestic product seriously, it will have to take the lead by showing it is itself serious.
Sunday Indo Sport