IRFU highlight threat of France’s greater financial muscle

Union exploring the possibility of attracting private money to aid the funding of the sport

The newly-elected IRFU president Louis Magee (right) and chief executive Philip Browne at the union’s annual council meeting at the  Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

The newly-elected IRFU president Louis Magee (right) and chief executive Philip Browne at the union’s annual council meeting at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Inpho

Sat, Jul 19, 2014, 01:19

JOHNNY WATTERSON

The IRFU reaffirmed that one the biggest threats to financing the game in Ireland is competition from teams in France with greater financial muscle. The fear is that Irish teams may become less competitive, which would have a hugely negative effect on union income.

The IRFU are also exploring the possibility of attracting private money to aid the funding of the sport.

At last night’s annual report and accounts, treasurer Tom Grace said that the future incomes stream carry risk and much of the financial future of the union rests with the success of the national and provincial teams as well as an improving economy.

The international game and the success of the senior team continue to be the cash cow of the sport. Last year the international game generated 75 per cent of cash income for the union.

The healthy attendances at the Autumn Series of matches in tandem with the success of the Irish team, which won the Six Nations Championship, and the strong performances from the provinces all contributed to the union reporting a surplus of €7.3 million for the year. However, with all of the costs stripped out, the deficit was €1 million, a smaller figure than the union expected. The deficit last year was €4.5 million.

Grace also pointed out that the 2020/’21 season would be vital for the IRFU as this is when the 5,000 premium tickets, which were largely issued in 2010, come up for renewal. For the last batch of 10-year tickets the IRFU were asking for €9,500 per ticket.

Other concerns centre around the direction television is taking and the impact on free to air broadcasting as well as the changing face of European rugby and what effect that will have on the ability of the Irish provincial sides to continue winning at European level.

Income from the international teams amounted to €33,356,304. Commercial income was €6,148,748, deferred ticket income came to over €15 million and ERC and provincial income was just over €10 million.

While the professional game generated the most cash it also cost most to administer, the total for the year running to €31,871,014.

‘Limited resources’

Not included in this amount is women’s teams which cost €1,428,745 for the year. This was more than the under-19, schoolboy, youth, youth/schools, under-20s and Wolfhounds (emerging Irish team) combined. Those six groups cost €1,230,000.

“The sort of money that is available in France, of course we’ve got to be concerned,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. “We’ve done pretty well with limited financial resources and limited playing resources over the years.

“We have to look at our business model, number one and maybe have to look at bringing in private money. Some of the provinces have been quite successful at generating private money.”

Total IRFU revenues increased by just over €4 million to €69.7 million.

Also last night, Louis Magee of Bective Rangers was elected the 127th president of the union.

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