IRFU reports further deficit of €10m in 2021 accounts due to impact from Covid-19

Ceo Philip Browne admits ‘no instant, easy answers’ after ‘tough week’ for women’s rugby

Chief executive Philip Browne announced that the IRFU suffered a further $10 million deficit in this year’s accounts due to to the impact of Covid-19. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Chief executive Philip Browne announced that the IRFU suffered a further $10 million deficit in this year’s accounts due to to the impact of Covid-19. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The IRFU has reported a deficit of €10million for the year ended July 31st, 2021 at their agm on Friday, and this follows on from the €36 million deficit previously reported for the preceding financial year, which was extended to 15 months.

Speaking to the media, the Union’s chief executive Philip Browne confirmed that during the last financial year the IRFU provided €27million of special Covid funding to the provinces and €4million to the club game.

The union’s income actually increased from €79.2million to €84 million, although this was due primarily to broadcasting income from two postponed Six Nations matches, as well as €13.2 million from the Pro14 CVC deal and €18.2 million in Government funding and assistance in relation to wage subsidies and other Government initiatives.

Professional game costs increased by almost € 20million, to just over €68 million reflecting among other things the financial assistance provided to the provinces during the pandemic.

Browne also disclosed that the Union’s reserves have fallen from €98.6 million to €52 million since April, 2019.

“Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on the IRFU. While our deficit has been reduced to €10 million in this period, the Union would have experienced a loss of over €43 million had we not had the assistance of the Government and the funding from the CVC deal with Pro 14. Irish Rugby thanks the Government, and Sport Ireland, for its support.

“Our aim was to emerge from the pandemic with the IRFU, the provinces and our clubs solvent, and the funding of €27million to the four provinces and €4 million to our clubs has assisted in that goal.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone, particularly those who have experienced illness and the loss of people due to the pandemic.

“The IRFU is emerging, with the rest of society, into this new environment and I want to thank everyone, from staff to players and coaches and volunteers across the entire rugby landscape for their time, patience, assistance and understanding at this extremely difficult time. There are brighter days ahead.”

How soon that applies to the women’s game remains to be seen after what has been a fractious week which has not reflected well on the Union.

In perhaps seeking to deflect attention away from the Union and himself, the director of womens and Sevens rugby, Anthony Eddy, merely provoked an outcry and turned the spotlight on himself with comments at the start of the week.

Eddy attributed the Irish team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup to the pressure the players put on themselves and their own errors rather than any flaws in their preparation or the IRFU’s programme.

“I think that our squad and our programme was actually a lot more advanced than what the other unions did,” he said, instead attributing the defeats by Spain and Scotland to the group putting “a lot of pressure on themselves around the actual performances. And that could have affected the way they actually played.”

Hooker Cliodhna Moloney tweeted: “I could have sworn slurry spreading season was spring . . . I stand corrected.”

She was supported by team-mates and ex-players, with captain Ciara Griffin revealing that Eddy had apologised to the team “in case people took offence”, while the IRFU neither confirmed nor denied that IRFU director of rugby David Nucifora had contacted Moloney about her tweet.

“Listen, it’s been a tough week and it’s been a tough week for anyone who love Irish rugby. I think we share the disappointment that the players and the team management have gone through,” said Browne.

“When you reflect on what has happened over the last week, there are probably two key issues or questions. The first one is the question around what happened in Parma [in qualifying] and the second question is how is the women’s game structured and developing, and is it structured correctly to ensure that the development of the women’s game proceeds at a pace.”

To that end there are two independent reports being conducted into the failed World Cup qualifying campaign in Parma and the overall women’s game in Ireland.

“The key thing here is the independence of the reports is important and the people doing the reports are well qualified. Amanda Bennett, FairPlay consultancy, and Kevin Bowring, who is a former international coach and has been involved in high performance for many, many years, and Helen Phillips, who’s been in high performance in the Commonwealth Games and other sports.

“I have every confidence in Amanda and her team in terms of reviewing what we are doing. I’m confident that there is a commitment by the IRFU that the women’s game is put on the best possible footing to develop as quickly as is possible or practical.

“There are no instant, easy answers. You can’t conjure something out of nothing. It takes time to develop the game and to develop players and there has been some great work done and sometimes that’s lost. There is great work done by our volunteers and by our staff around the country and in the provinces and it is obviously disheartening for those people in terms of the criticism that’s out there but, at the end of the day, if the criticism is deserved we have to take it on the chin and move on.”

Browne did not deny reports that Nucifora, who started his role as high-performance director in April 2014, is to be offered a further extension to his contract.

“I think we’re very happy with the job that David Nucifora is doing and I’m in discussions with him at the moment in terms of contract extension.

“All you have to do is look at the through-put of players coming into the provincial system and the success that we’ve had in bringing young players through in the provinces and, indeed, the national team.

“David’s job is to find the raw material for the high-performance system and I think he’s done a really good job.”

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