A sporting licence to print money
The IRFU budget for having one quarter-finalist in the Heineken Cup per season, which means that Ulster’s participation in the knock-out stages come April has already ensured that the union’s coffers will meet the minimum requirement from the competition.
Nonetheless, were Munster and Leinster not to join them this weekend, it would mean quite a significant hole in the union’s budget compared to recent times – in the region of €3 million.
The union may not have budgeted for the financial windfalls which their provinces earned for them in the last few years, most notably last season’s record haul, but they must have become quite fond of it all the same.
Contrary to the message being conveyed by the English club owners especially, the ERC’s turnover has shot up in recent years to €50 million plus. To all intents and purposes, it is a non-profit organisation and, after running costs, the surplus is distributed amongst the six participating countries.
Thus, in addition to the basic participation payments (which last season, akin to their Welsh and Scottish counterparts, would have seen the IRFU earn in region of €5.2 million) each club which qualifies for a quarter-final, a semi-final or the final of the Heineken Cup will earn a payment for that club’s country. Based on ERC’s 2011/12 distribution, the payment was €450,000 per club.
Last season, Ireland had three quarter-finalists for the first time, two semi-finalists and two finalists. This equated to €3.15 million – exactly half the meritocracy pool of €6.3 million.
The French (whose payments go directly to the clubs) were next, on €1.35 million, followed by the Scots on €900,000, with the English (whose payments also go directly to their clubs) and Welsh on €450,000 each for having just one losing quarter- finalist apiece.
No wonder the English and Frenchwere miffed, although it is utterly disingenuous for them to put out the message that Irish rugby receives more per team than anyone else. The
English and French each receive almost €10 million each from the participation agreement. Indeed, based strictly on the ratio between the numbers of teams participating and basicpayments, that wouldactually be the Scots.
Last season’s additional haul of €3.15m which the IRFU received was entirely from the meritocracy payments.
The previous season, when the meritocracy payments would not have been dissimilar, the IRFU would have received roughly €1.8 million, from having Leinster and Ulster in the quarter-finals, with Leinster going on win the competition.
That season, the French would have been the main beneficiaries with four quarter-finalists and two semi-finalists (circa €2.7 million) while in 2009-10, by dint of having four quarter-finalists, two semi-finalists and two finalists, the French would have scooped exactly half of the overall meritocracy payments.
In any event, when the IRFU are paying out international contracts to Irish home-based players, it is worth noting that they can receive a handsome payback on their investment at provincial level too.
This is worth bearing in mind regarding the current negotiations between them and Jonny Sexton’s agents. With Sexton at the helm, Leinster have won the last two Heineken Cups, and those two runs to the final alone reaped in the region of €1.35 million in meritocracy payments for its country, each year; or €2.7 million in total.