Irish provinces must contribute 30% to fund each national contract, confirms IRFU

Current system sees each contract fully financed by the union and addresses complaint from other provinces that Leinster had advantage

The IRFU has confirmed that provinces will now have to contribute 30 per cent to fund each national contract, replacing the current system in which the union fully financed each one. The new model will be reviewed on an annual basis.

It addresses a complaint from the other provinces that Leinster had a competitive advantage in terms of funding because they had a glut of centrally contracted players for whom they didn’t have to pay a euro in salary terms. It could add in the region of €1.5 million to Leinster’s wage bill annually.

Nine Leinster players: Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, and Hugo Keenan are currently on national contracts, with Jamison Gibson-Park expected to make that 10 from next season.

The other provinces have one apiece in Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Bundee Aki (Connacht) and Iain Henderson (Ulster). It is likely that Munster outhalf Jack Crowley could be added to that list sooner rather than later if he continues to progress as a key player at provincial and national level.


The IRFU confirmed that the review of central contracts was “conducted by an external consultant under the direction of a steering committee that included an IRFU delegate from each province, consulted extensively with key stakeholders including the provinces, Rugby Players Ireland (RPI) and the IRFU.”

The Union asserted in a statement that “the recommendations of the review have the support of the provinces, the steering committee, and the IRFU committee. A key focus of the review was to safeguard the success of the men’s national team, which generates more than 80 per cent of IRFU annual revenues, whilst also ensuring the four provinces remain competitive.

“To support successful national and provincial teams, Irish rugby requires a strong pipeline of talent coming through the pathways of all provinces on a consistent basis. The IRFU remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that rugby in Ireland remains financially sustainable.”

The provinces would have a pretty good idea of each other’s bottom line funding-wise but they won’t be getting any more detail under the new agreement. Each of the provincial delegates was provided with a financial breakdown that related directly to their province.

“Annual funding of approximately €40 million will be provided by the IRFU to provinces on a more transparent and equitable basis, including new incentives based on future growth of income from EPCR and URC competitions plus a new matched funding programme to help drive fundraising efforts and additional investment in the domestic game.” Any investment in the club game is to be welcomed.

Speaking about the review, IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts said: “Last year, I announced a review of our funding model and today I am pleased to announce that this review has been completed. With 80 per cent of the Union’s income derived from our men’s national team, it is imperative that we protect that income at all costs as it is essential to delivering our expanding women’s rugby programme and ongoing support of our domestic game.

“At the heart of our existing model is the central control of player contracting and management, which is admired by many. A key change to the funding model will see provinces contribute up to 30 per cent of the cost of a national contract for their players, with this level to be reviewed annually.

“We hear loud and clear from our players that Ireland is the best place for them to play rugby, owing to our exceptionally high player welfare standards and game management, and that is something of which we are immensely proud. The strength of rugby in Ireland is aligned to having four healthy, competitive provinces and the IRFU remains committed to delivering this in a financially sustainable manner.

“In essence, this new model is simpler, more transparent, more equitable and delivers better incentivisation and alignment. We will however continue to review the model annually which will also need to take account of the pending release of a new strategic vision for rugby in Ireland. I would like to thank all the provinces for their support and participation in this review and we look forward to implementing these changes for the betterment of rugby in Ireland.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer