Leinster to play two matches at Aviva


THE INTRODUCTION of two Italian teams, the Benetton Treviso and Aironi franchises, to this season’s Magners League tournament has allowed Leinster two potential lucrative pay days at the Aviva Stadium. The Irish province will play their home fixture against Munster in the Magners League on Saturday, October 2nd (7.30pm) and also a Heineken Cup Pool clash with Clermont Auvergne on Saturday, December 18th (5.45pm) at the newly-refurbished stadium.

Leinster has a long-standing agreement to play a certain number of fixtures per season at the RDS but with the incorporation of the Italian sides into the Magners League it has given the province the scope to shift two matches to the Aviva Stadium.

Mick Dawson, Leinster’s chief executive, explained: “We have a 20-year arrangement with the RDS with a break clause after 10 years to play 13 matches a season there so, with the two extra Magners League games and the schools’ cup (final) match, that takes us up to our quota.

“They understand what we are trying to do. In the long-term we would be hoping to knock down the Anglesea Stand and improve that stadium (the RDS) and get it up to about 23-24,000 which is probably about right. So, events here (in the Aviva) would be novelty events and we would hope that a lot of people who never get to an international here would take the opportunity to come and watch Leinster play.

“At the moment it wouldn’t be our intention to play any more games in the Aviva. We think two is about right and the reason for that is that we want to fill it out on both occasions.

“It is very important from a player’s perspective that we get it full and that it has the right atmosphere in the place. The RDS is still our home and we are committed to them long-term.”

Sport isn’t impervious to the current economic climate but Dawson is confident the decision to switch those two matches to the Aviva Stadium will be well supported by the public.

“We are optimistic that, with the market research we have done, if we can fill it for the Munster match, we will have had a good atmosphere.

“Hopefully the team will be going well and that is important, but we have a plan. Clermont obviously won’t bring too many people with them whereas Munster will probably take their quota of about 8,000-9,000 tickets. We are hopeful we will fill it.”

Leinster’s 13,000 season-ticket holders will be accommodated for the double-header but have also been contacted and given first option to purchase additional tickets for the Munster game. Any remaining tickets for the derby will go on public sale next Monday (10am) from www.leinsterrugby.ie and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Prices start from €30 while family concessions are also available.

Unlike with the previous incarnation, Lansdowne Road, Leinster will have to pay to rent the Aviva Stadium for the two matches. Dawson confirmed: “There is a stadium company who you deal with and the IRFU and FAI are stakeholders in that company. They have a rate they charge and we are like anyone coming along. There is a rate involved.

“There is a rent for the stadium, you pay for all the security; hopefully it will attract 50,000 people and it will be a commercial success for us. You want to be able to go into the market and attract top-quality overseas players so you need a strong balance sheet to do that.”

As yet Leinster do not have a rental figure – but as a constituent of one of the owners they’d probably be good for a discounted rate – with Dawson explaining that “there at still certain things to be worked out at board level but the FAI and IRFU have an arrangement where some of their stakeholders are coming and there is an agreed fee but it hasn’t been sorted yet.

“If we can get the two full houses I think that would say a lot about Leinster rugby. I have said it before, we are in a capital city and we have a huge hinterland in Leinster. This year alone the team have been down to Wexford and Mullingar and out to Clondalkin on training sessions.

“The interest has been phenomenal so the interest has spread. We are trying to drive all those stakeholders to take an opportunity that they might not otherwise get which is to get into the Aviva Stadium.”