The Annual Council Meeting of the Irish Football Rugby Union has been advised that despite ongoing work across the professional and domestic game to ensure the continuing safe participation in rugby, the IRFU is still at significant financial risk due to the persisting impact of COVID 19.
Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Treasurer, told delegates at the on-line meeting that despite many positive developments such as the ongoing vaccination rollout, successful pilot test events and the gradual relaxation of government restrictions, that rugby is “far from out of the woods”.
Kennedy outlined that without the assistance and commitment of government, sponsors, broadcasters, and patrons the IRFU would not have survived as it has, and that continued support remains vital.
Advising that the IRFU’s financial year end would move permanently to 31 July, to ensure alignment with the new global season, Kennedy confirmed that a full financial update will be issued from the Union in November following the presentation of the audited accounts for 2020/21 to the meeting of the IRFU Council at that time.
At the meeting it was confirmed that current President, Des Kavanagh, Senior Vice President, John Robinson and Junior Vice President, Greg Barrett, will remain in their respective roles for the forthcoming season, due to the impact COVID 19 had on their terms in office last season.
On the day that Munster’s Fiona Steed and Connacht’s Yvonne Comer (pictured) were appointed to the Union Committee, delegates were reminded that, following approval of governance changes at a special EGM in June, from 2023 a minimum of one in four nominees to the IRFU Committee from each Province must be female.
IRFU Thank Government For Support
Speaking of the challenging environment Philip Browne, CEO, told irishrugby.ie,
“Irish Rugby is continuing to grapple with the most significant financial crisis in our history and we are expecting to report another year of losses in 2021, when our audited accounts are released later this year.”
The key issue remains the absence of fans at provincial grounds and the Aviva Stadium. The IRFU continues to address this particularly through its active participation in the cross-sport working party on return of fans to stadia. “We have made encouraging progress in recent weeks with the return of increasing numbers of supporters to various sporting and cultural events, which leaves us hopeful that fans may return in meaningful numbers to our grounds in Autumn. I would like to thank the government, in particular Minister Chambers and his department officials for their commitment to facilitating the safe progressive return of fans to stadia.
“As the only sporting organisation fully supporting a professional game, we are dependent on the national and provincial teams’ ability to generate revenues which have been decimated by the impact of COVID restrictions since March 2020.” Browne added.
Looking back at his most challenging season at the helm of Irish Rugby, Browne reiterated that the IRFU had to implement a 10% permanent cost base reduction, approved by the Union in March of this year and with that came some difficult decisions, despite a critically important grant of €18m from government in respect of loss of revenues in 2020.
“As in many industries, regrettably we have had job losses and pay cuts across the organisation for the last 12 months while we also eliminated all non-critical overheads.”
Looking at forward financial projections Browne outlined ‘We understand that Sport Ireland and the Department are discussing, with government, proposals for additional emergency funding for sport. We made a submission to Minister Chambers setting out expected further significant cash income losses for the IRFU and Provinces in 2021 arising from COVID 19 restrictions.
The meeting heard that the bulk of the 2021 losses are already realised as the 2020/21 season has now concluded and the IRFU, alone, has suffered a 47% reduction in turnover for the six months to the end of June 2021, compared to the first half of 2019.
Browne explained, “Our two largest income-generating home games every two years against England and France were held behind closed doors with a loss of match income of over €16m. These are the games that keep Irish Rugby going.”
The challenges for rugby are clear and without the assistance of the government’s EWSS employment supports, which the IRFU and Provinces continue to receive, and the PAYE debt warehousing scheme, Browne said that the IRFU would now be facing a more bleak situation.
“The schemes available from the government are vitally important to on-going operations, but these result in accumulated debt of c. €30m in PAYE to date, this will eventually have to be paid.
“Without additional government funding in 2021, and a return of fans to our stadia in meaningful numbers later this year, the IRFU would once again have to review all activities and swiftly implement another round of very unpalatable cost reductions. Further cuts, if necessary, would have a significant impact on the organisation and all activities from grassroots to pro game pathways.”
Searching for a positive in the current environment Brown said “The importance of pathways and programmes is always at the forefront of our minds and is perfectly demonstrated by the huge success of our men’s sevens team qualifying for the Olympics, for the first time.
“We also managed to host all of our International match fixtures and all, but one, Provincial game in Ireland, albeit behind closed doors. We also continued supporting the severely restricted levels of club activities. This was done safely thanks to the development, implementation, and compliance across Irish Rugby of robust COVID 19 protocols.
“I would like to thank our committee and playing and non-playing staff for their commitment, and of course the volunteers across our clubs for doing their very best to ensure that Irish Rugby continued to function and emerge from this crisis.
“It is important we acknowledge these achievements, given the disruption and challenges we have all experienced this year. As is always the case, success on the pitch can give the whole nation a lift including this week’s historic first involvement of an Ireland Sevens team at the Olympic Games.”
Source – Irish Rugby
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Farrell Named Coach Of The Year As Five Irish Players Make Dream Team
Andy Farrell has been named Coach of the Year and five Irish players included in the Men’s Dream Team at a star studded World Rugby Awards Ceremony tonight. Former International Referee David McHugh was also honoured on the night with the World Rugby Referee Award.
Just hours after South Africa defeated the All Blacks to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an historic fourth time at Stade de France, the victorious team reunited to open the spectacular 90-minute show, held at the breathtaking Opéra Garnier in the heart of Paris.
Farrell was named World Rugby Coach of the Year, recognising his achievement in leading Ireland’s to a Six Nations Grand Slam and top spot in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for 15 months.
Speaking about the award Andy Farrell said, “I would like to thank World Rugby for this recognition and congratulate the other nominees for their efforts this year. Coaching is a demanding and hugely rewarding profession, with many highs and lows, and in accepting this award, I would like to pay tribute to the players and wider coaching and support staff who work tirelessly to bring success to Irish rugby.
I am incredibly proud to work with such a talented and committed group. This award is recognition for all those involved in Irish rugby and our incredible supporters who travel near and far to support us. I am honoured to accept this award on their behalf.”
Four nations are represented in the Dream Team with Rugby World Cup 2023 hosts France and Ireland claiming five players apiece, New Zealand four and World Champions South Africa one.
Three Irish forwards made the team with Dan Sheehan, Tadgh Furlong and Caelan Doris included. In the backline Bundee Aki, who was shortlisted for Player of the Year, and his centre partner Garry Ringrose were named.
McHugh was given the World Rugby Referee award in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the game of rugby which spans more than 20 years, from his decade as an international referee taking charge of 28 tests. He officiated at three Rugby World Cups between 1995 and 2003, and has acted as a mentor for the next generations of match officials, including the likes of Joy Neville and John Lacey in Ireland and Nika Amashukeli in Georgia.
Of the 11 awards presented in Paris, nine were selected by the star-studded World Rugby Awards panels, while the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year was decided by a fan vote on social media.
Nominees and winners in a further four women’s categories will be announced and celebrated separately, at the conclusion of the ongoing WXV tournament.
World Rugby Men’s XVs Dream Team
1. Cyril Baille (France) 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland) 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) 5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand) 6. Caelan Doris (Ireland) 7. Charles Ollivon (France) 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand) 9. Antoine Dupont (France) 10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand) 11. Will Jordan (New Zealand) 12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland) 14. Damian Penaud (France) 15. Thomas Ramos (France).
World Rugby Award Winners
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in partnership with Mastercard – Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Andy Farrell (Ireland)
World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in partnership with Tudor – Mark Tele’a (New Zealand)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award – David McHugh (Ireland)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – George Nijaradze (Georgia)
Rugby for All Award – SOS Kit Aid
International Rugby Players Special Merit Award – John Smit (South Africa)
International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year – Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees: Daniel Carter (New Zealand), Thierry Dusautoir (France), George Smith (Australia), Juan Martín Hernández (Argentina), Bryan Habana (South Africa).
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Historic Rugby Calendar Reform To Supercharge Reach And Competitiveness
The World Rugby Council has approved transformational reform of the global men’s and women’s rugby calendars, a seminal moment for the sport that marks a new era of opportunity, certainty and growth for the game, a fitting finale to its 200th birthday year.
Reform of Regulation 9 governing international player release has paved the way for the global club and international game to complement each other with clearly defined windows of release for international duties, as well as enhanced player welfare outcomes in the form of Player Load Guidelines.
Shaped through close collaboration with the players and stakeholders from across the whole sport, including domestic and international competitions, regions, unions, the adjustments have been driven by a game-wide commitment to prioritise player welfare while supporting desired competitiveness increases across performance unions.
In the women’s game, the decision means clearly defined global and regional player release periods for the first time with no domestic competition overlap, opening the way to a harmonious structure that promotes opportunity and growth ahead of an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup in 2025.
In the men’s game, new competition structures coupled with an increased level of cross-over fixtures between the high performance and performance unions, will deliver long-term certainty of content for the first time, supporting increases in competitiveness, interest and value ahead of a landmark Rugby World Cup in the USA in 2031.
Together, these developments crucially allow for better management of player load and overall welfare in the game, with the development of new Player Load Guidelines and ongoing expert input to oversee the development and evolution of the guidelines working with all stakeholders.
First-ever global calendar for women’s rugby with dedicated release windows
- First-ever dedicated international release windows (regional release window of seven weeks and global release window of eight weeks) from 2025.
- Clarity of release periods for club/league and cross-border competitions, to allow certainty of planning and investment.
- A commitment to more effectively manage player load and welfare in the fast-evolving women’s game, working with all stakeholders
- A framework to review the women’s global calendar and international competition structures on an ongoing basis to recognise that fast-evolving environment and opportunity.
First-ever global calendar for men’s rugby with new competitions and increased opportunity
- Establishment of an enhanced global calendar for men’s rugby with clearer international windows, including confirmation of the release window for Rugby World Cup 2027 (Australia).
- Expansion of Rugby World Cup to 24 teams in 2027, providing more qualification opportunities for more teams and regional competitions.
- Launch of a bi-annual new international competition from 2026, comprising a top division of 12 teams (Six Nations unions, SANZAAR unions and two further unions to be selected via a process run by SANZAAR), and a second division run by World Rugby of 12 teams with promotion and relegation commencing from 2030. Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division.
- The competition provides players and fans with compelling matches, to build audiences and value for all.
- A significant uplift in the number of cross-over matches between unions in the respective divisions are included in the global calendar in the two other years, providing performance nations with annual competition certainty against high performance unions.
- Launch of new annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup competition in 2024, featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA with home fixtures and Japan and USA alternating as finals hosts, guaranteeing a minimum of three additional matches a year in addition to the new international competition and cross-over fixtures.
- The global men’s calendar provides additional clarity for elite league and cross-border club competitions, supporting value growth investment opportunities for all.
The reform follows extensive consultation with the professional game, including regions, unions, domestic and international competitions, and detailed evaluation of the playing, commercial and fan landscape. Implementation of the agreed package will continue to involve dialogue with all parties.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “It is fitting that we finish Rugby World Cup 2023, the sport’s greatest celebration of togetherness, with the sport’s greatest feat of togetherness. Agreement on the men’s and women’s global calendars and their content is the most significant development in the sport since the game went professional. An historic moment for our sport that sets us up collectively for success.
“We now look forward to an exciting new era for our sport commencing in 2025 (women) and 2026 (men). An era that will bring certainty and opportunity for all. An era that will support the many, not the few, and an era that will supercharge the development of the sport beyond its traditional and often self-imposed boundaries. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their spirit of collaboration. Today, we have achieved something special.”
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography