The new CEO of Munster Rugby said the future development of rugby clubs and teams will involve investing in e-sports, digital streaming and appealing to a younger audience.
"I think rugby is going to change hugely in the next couple of years," Ian Flanagan said. "It’’s pretty much an analogue sport about to move into the digital age, and it’’s happening in rugby later than other sports."
Speaking at Cork University Business School’’s annual conference, Mr Flanagan also said targeting a younger audience is core to future-proofing Munster Rugby.
"Every sport in the world.. is competing with video games, Netflix, Amazon, and that’’s the reality for sports around the world. We all have to battle for the hearts and minds of kids, teenagers."
The CEO has plans to make a push into e-sports, which rugby has not done so far, unlike soccer with hugely popular video games like FIFA.
He also said Munster Rugby has something very special in terms of fans and what the brand represents. "I have worked with 20 different sports down through the years... what we have at Munster, 99.9% of those sports clubs would give their right arm to have.
"We have an enormous opportunity to [expand our market] to the Irish diaspora... which makes digital hugely important for us."
Anne O’’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, also spoke at the conference about the benefits going digital can bring businesses, especially in terms of the recent coronavirus health scare.
"It’’s about connecting [the world] for good. We talk about having the best mobile and data network so people can connect for business or personal reasons.
"This is going to be key [to combatting coronavirus] and for people to interact with each other."
She also spoke about the measures Vodafone has brought in to promote diversity and gender equality in the workplace, from increased maternity and paternity support, domestic violence paid leave and support, and flexible working hours.
"It’’s about taking societal issues ... and bringing in policies in work that can [combat] them."
This was the fourth annual Cork University Business School Conference.
Gina London, award-winning former CNN correspondent, hosted the event.