IRFU chief executive Philip Browne issued a stark analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on Irish rugby on Friday as he forecast losses of between €15 and €20 million if this season’s remaining Six Nations matches and the autumn internationals are not played.
Browne's assessment came on a day when the PRO14, in which the IRFU is a stakeholder, announced a sale of a 28% stake in the five-nation league to venture capitalists CVC and which will net the Irish governing body £30m (€33.5m), phased over three years.
The CEO also confirmed reports that the IRFU had set a target of a return to competitive rugby with behind-closed-doors PRO14 derbies at Aviva Stadium starting August 22-23 if the Government’s roadmap to the reopening of society post-lockdown pans out as hoped.
There came a warning, however, for sport in general.
“The levels of financial loss being encountered by all sporting organisations is catastrophic and rugby is no exception.
“Almost 70 clubs have already applied for support through the Club Continuity Support Fund and this will only grow. The IRFU will do what it can to lend support to clubs but there is only so far drastically depleted funds can stretch.
“It is not sensationalist to suggest that without Government financial support sport will take a generation to get back on its feet, leaving an enormous void at the heart of communities throughout the land.
“Sport and clubs have played an inestimable but often undervalued role in the development of our young and the health of the general population.
“I would call on Government, who have done such a magnificent job in shepherding the country from the worst excesses of this pandemic over the past months, to fully recognise Sports’ contribution and role as a core strand in the fabric of our society, and in turn provide the significant financial support all sports will need in the difficult transition from dormant isolation to vibrancy across their communities.”