Home comforts earn provinces €10.5m windfall

IRISH provinces will be chasing a financial jackpot this weekend as they look to secure a Heineken Cup quarter-final home draw, with local economies benefiting by up to €10.5 million, according to figures released by the tournament organisers.

Home comforts earn provinces €10.5m windfall

The importance of securing a Heineken Cup quarter-final home draw has long been understood by coaches and players with ambitions of lifting European club rugby’s greatest prize but now the financial benefits have also been underlined by ERC.

With Munster travelling to Northampton looking for a sixth pool win from six that will give them a Thomond Park date in the last eight, and defending champions Leinster hosting Montpellier also looking to nail down a home draw in the knockout stages, figures released last night by ERC revealed that a €1m net profit per quarter-final last season was shared by the two clubs in each match with a further €438,000 per club distributed to their unions as meritocracy payments.

Furthermore, the potential economic impact of a Heineken Cup quarter-final was underlined by research that showed the 2009 match between Munster and Ospreys at Thomond Park generated €10.5m for the Limerick economy.

ERC chief executive Derek McGrath said: “A look at last season’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals shows the clubs on average shared €1m profit for each match from the net receipts alone.

So the prize is big, and if you add on top of that, the meritocracy payments which come from ERC’s central funds, just over €400,000 goes to each country of each of the qualifiers for the quarter-finals.

“You’re talking about a shared fund of almost €2m (euro) from each of the quarter-finals.”

Ulster can make it three Irish provinces in the last eight for the first time after their barnstorming win over Leicester Tigers at Ravenhill last week but they will have to defeat ASM Clermont Auvergne at their fortress Stade Marcel Michelin to make it back-to-back quarter-finals.

The French club lie three points adrift of the Ulstermen despite their 82-0 victory over Aironi in Italy last weekend and while Clermont were beaten in Belfast in week one, Ulster wing Craig Gilroy recognises victory in France will be a different challenge entirely.

“It goes up a notch again next week, absolutely no question about that,” the 20-year-old Gilroy said. “The reality is that the win over Leicester will mean nothing unless we go over to Clermont and put in a performance.

“And we proved that we can beat them when we won the Round 1 match back in November.

“Obviously we had home advantage on that occasion, but we beat them nevertheless.

“That said, they are a great team especially among their backs where they have got some of the best players in the world.

“It’s only just over 12 months since I made my debut and to play against the likes of Sitiveni Sivivatu, Lee Byrne and (Aurelien) Rougerie, it’s crazy. But I can’t be starstruck. I would just have to play the best I can no matter who I face.”

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