Revamped RDS could take Leinster Rugby to ’another level’, chief executive predicts

Mick Dawson confirms Denis O’Brien and other business people have provided funds to retain key players

Leinster flags being waved at the RDS. Leinster Rugby’s chief executive Mick Dawson said a revamped RDS would help to take the province to “another level”.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Leinster flags being waved at the RDS. Leinster Rugby’s chief executive Mick Dawson said a revamped RDS would help to take the province to “another level”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Leinster Rugby will seek €15 million from the Government’s new fund for major sports infrastructure projects to redevelop the RDS, with a view to having it completed by September or October 2020, the province’s chief executive has confirmed.

“We are waiting for that fund to open,” Leinster chief Mick Dawson told Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times. “We have met a lot of Government Ministers and Opposition TDs as well. By and large, there seems to be reasonable support for this. We need about €15 million.”

Mr Dawson said a revamped RDS – which would have an additional 3,000 seats in the Anglesea Stand and enhanced corporate facilities – was needed for Leinster to be able to compete with better resourced English and French clubs.

“It would reinvigorate us and give us a new revenue stream . . . because of corporate facilities, premium seats, boxes probably,” he said. “We’ve done lots of modelling on it . . . you’d hope it would be a significant sum of money extra to what we have at the moment.”

Planning permission

Leinster began playing in the RDS in 2007 and has a 20-year lease at the Ballsbridge venue. The redevelopment would cost €30 million, with funding from the RDS and a naming rights deal with Laya Healthcare bridging the gap.

Planning permission to upgrade the RDS has already been secured and Mr Dawson said that if funding was secured from the Government, a six-month tendering process and 12 months of construction would follow. He hopes the new stadium would be available for the 2020/21 season.

Mr Dawson said Leinster’s annual income from gate receipts and commercial revenue amounts to €15 million, topped up with €4 million from the IRFU. He said the province makes a “small surplus” each year when various costs are taken out.

He also confirmed that Irish businessman Denis O’Brien and others have assisted the province financially, helping it to retain key Irish players.

“Denis has only been involved in one [player] and he has been very generous. People like Denis O’Brien and others who have made a lot of money have been helpful to us.

“We’ve got to work very hard to maintain our independence . . . you can’t be relying on handouts. We’ve experienced a bit of philanthropy in the past . . . some of our sponsors have helped us out as well but the new stand in the RDS would help us to raise it to another level.”