Sport Rugby

Sunday 25 February 2018

We won't bail you out any more, IRFU warns provinces as wage bills rocket

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Daire Walsh

The IRFU has warned the provinces that it can no longer be the 'lender of last resort' as the Irish sides struggle to keep pace with the big-spending French and English clubs.

The Union revealed at their annual council meeting yesterday that there had been an increase of almost €6m in player and management costs in the past 12 months - thanks in a part to the financial difficulties encountered by Munster.

Those increased costs largely wiped out the surplus of €5m taken in from increased broadcast revenue and the extra fixtures of a World Cup year.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the professional game in Ireland can no longer rely on the IRFU being the 'lender of last resort' as the IRFU no longer has the capacity to absorb the increasing cost of the professional game as Irish rugby struggles to respond to the inflating player market in England and France," said IRFU CEO Philip Browne in his annual report.

"The risks to the Irish professional game are potentially profound."

Browne said the union would invest in player development pathways, and stressed the need to find ways of making the Pro12 more profitable.

"We have to do something about the Pro12 as a competition. €97m is the annual television deal for the Top 14. For the PRL (English Premiership) it's around £43m, and for the Pro12 it's €14m.

"We collectively have a problem. We have to try and find a way of making that competition more attractive to broadcasters, and to commercial sponsors."

Browne dismissed claims that Munster have been poorly run in recent years, and pointed to a combination of circumstances.

"There's a serious problem, but the reason why there's a cash hole this year was a combination of reasons," Browne said.

"Because of the broadcast nature of the Pro12, Munster ended up with a number of matches on Friday night, which doesn't work for Limerick.

"Effectively, by December, they ended up in a situation where their two home matches in Europe were effectively dead rubbers. So, their gates just fell away, and they were probably about €2m down on the gate receipts they would have had maybe two years ago. To say the place is badly run is wrong."

Browne stressed that the main aim is for all of the provinces to "live within their means".

Irish Independent

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