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'The stated objective is to make sure that Munster and the other provinces are still standing'

Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan has been talking about the challenges of the Covid-19 shutdown.

Ross Byrne with Munster's Joey Carbery in a Pro14 clash at Thomond Park last year.
Ross Byrne with Munster's Joey Carbery in a Pro14 clash at Thomond Park last year.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

MUNSTER RUGBY CEO Ian Flanagan has emphasised the challenge wrought by the Covid-19 shutdown by telling Munster’s official podcast the IRFU’s stated aim is to ensure the four provinces “are still standing as viable clubs when this is all over.” 

The bulk of the money in the Irish game flows from the top, and is thus dependent on the IRFU’s ability to fill the Aviva Stadium five times a year for Irish internationals. The lockdown has led to the postponement of the 2020 Six Nations clash with Italy, and the summer tour of Australia has since been postponed. 

The IRFU are desperate to get the show back on the road as quickly as possible, and the four provinces are set to take part in an inter-provincial competition behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium on 22 and 23 August. 

Munster, says CEO Flanagan, are in “reasonable shape” financially, but are working with the IRFU to ensure the Irish game can survive in its current guise. 

“No one can prepare for a pandemic, it poses huge challenges to us but it’s the same challenge facing every sports club in Ireland and around the world – every business around the world.

“So, we’re not unique. We’re in reasonable shape. I’ll caveat that – the financial challenges are obviously extensive. Matchday income from ticketing and hospitality, merchandise and all of that has stopped dead since our last game at Thomond Park in February.

“We’re like the other Irish provinces in that. The IRFU model is slightly different, in that their broadcast deals represent proportionately a bigger slice of the overall revenue so if the Six Nations outstanding games – I’m talking about the Italy game specifically – if and when that gets replayed and even if it’s behind closed doors which is the model on the table at the moment, it will still deliver revenue for the IRFU through broadcasting deals and the Six Nations end of year competition dividend.

“When we get back to playing games behind closed doors it’s a step on the road back to normal, but it’s nowhere near rugby as normal, revenues as normal because we absolutely need to be playing games in front of our supporters for that to happen.

“I don’t think any business in the world can adjust naturally or easily when virtually all of its revenue is just stopped dead overnight or for that revenue to be stopped for an indefinite period of time.

“What we are trying to do is address the challenges in the right manner. All of the provinces are ultimately owned by the IRFU and we’re working very closely with the IRFU during this period to protect our people as best we can, because we have some excellent people in our organisation.

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“The stated objective is to make sure that Munster and the other provinces are still standing as viable clubs when this is all over and we take the field again and similarly the national team. That’s the objective, as well as protecting the domestic game as well.

“So, those are our starting points all of the actions we’re taking are with the aim of delivering against those pillars that we’re identified on day one.

“The Irish government has been supportive of rugby as it has been to other businesses and in an uncertain landscape we are doing, in lockstep with the IRFU and the provinces as best we can because we all have different scenarios and different issues to deal with, but we’re doing our best to stay aligned and plot our way through this.” 

While players are currently on holidays before beginning pre-season later this month, the government last week gave the green light for Munster, Leinster and Connacht to return to collective training at their base. Ulster are seeking permission from Stormont to do likewise, ahead of the interpro series at the Aviva in August. 

mick-dawson-and-ian-flanagan Ian Flanagan (right) with Leinster CEO Mick Dawson (centre) Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“In as much as we can, we are trying to continue business as usual in terms of the senior squad”, says Flanagan. 

“The plan which has been submitted to the Irish government has the 22 August as the start date. Everything we do is geared towards playing those games. Those games will be a wrap-up of the current season and PRO14 has identified the first weekend of October as the start of the next season.

“So, in as much as we can, we’re led by the government roadmap for the return to “normal life” but we have a plan to get back and fingers crossed we can get back.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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