Leinster clubs demand IRFU reveal AIL restructuring plan
Clubs opposed to any move towards a semi-professional league from from 2019/20.
Philip Browne: IRFU seeking to create “a strong link between the club game and pro game in a complimentary season structure”.
Leinster clubs are demanding that the IRFU reveal their plans for restructuring the All-Ireland League.
The major concern, at a meeting of every senior Leinster club last Wednesday, was the suspected move towards a semi-professional “third tier” in 2019.
Following the disbanding of the British and Irish Cup, which provided regular competition for provincial “A” teams, Philip Browne, the IRFU chief executive, has already indicated a revamped format is imminent.
This is believed to be a two-conference, eight-team competition without promotion or relegation.
“At this point in time there exists a real opportunity to put our club game on a more sustainable footing into the future,” said Browne in a memo to the clubs, “and return the [AIL] to being the third tier of Irish rugby, supporting both the provincial and national teams.”
The IRFU are seeking to create a “strong link between the club game and pro game in a complimentary season structure.”
What this exactly means Browne would not say.
The Leinster clubs want the AIL to remain in its current format and came out strongly against moves towards a semi-professional league from 2019/20.
The majority of speakers, at the meeting facilitated by the Leinster Branch, voiced concerns about the league being transformed into a stepping stone towards professionalism, and the damage that could have on their amateur ethos.
“The clubs have advised us that they have not been given any details of the new proposal and are very surprised and disappointed to learn that a proposal has been made without any consultation with them,” wrote Stuart Bayley, honorary secretary of the Leinster Branch in an April letter to the IRFU seeking more information.
“It is important for the development of the game that the clubs are to the forefront of the game and are not dismissed to some backwater for the benefit of the professional game. There is a balance to be struck in what is best for both sides. After all, the clubs nurture and give the basic skill set to the very children who go on to be professional players. Any diminution of the club game may have a long term effect.”
Greg Barrett, the chairman of the IRFU rugby committee, confirmed there “would be no change to the AIL structure in 2018/19”.
Nicky Comyn is chairman of the union’s AIL sub committee tasked with the restructuring the league.
Provincial A fixtures are also to continue in an interpro format.