Munster’s new chief executive has told the Irish Examiner the team’s disappointing run of form should not detract from the “extremely bright” future he believes is awaiting the province under head coach Johann van Graan.
Cork native Ian Flanagan succeeded Garrett Fitzgerald as Munster Rugby CEO in September having spent his entire career in the sports industry, including five years as Leicester City commercial director, during which time the Foxes rose from Championship also-rans to Premier League champions in 2016.
Having grown up within walking distance of Musgrave Park, Flanagan is well aware of the expectation surround Munster but in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview to be published in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner, he said that despite just two wins from eight games and the prospect of Champions Cup elimination at the end of the pool stage this weekend, the Red Army of supporters has every right to have high expectations.
“I would never accuse anyone involved with Munster or supportive of Munster of expecting too much. They should expect too much,” said Flanagan.
“We expect everything of ourselves. We want to be the best and we expect to be the best, that’s what drives us every day.
"That’s why I’ve come back. That’s why Johann has come from South Africa and why the other guys (assistant coaches Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree) have come.
I cannot explain to you adequately how ambitious we are for this club because we think we genuinely are unique.
"We genuinely think we can be the biggest club in the world if we do the right things. That is the ambition.
“Now, whether we get there, how long it takes us to get there, because obviously we’re competing with different systems, different salary caps, the billionaire element in England and France to compete with as well, but we want to be the best.
"That is the ambition, that is what gets us out of bed every day and so, no, they don’t expect too much of us because we expect that and more of ourselves.”
Flanagan believes Munster are currently finding life difficult on the pitch due to inconsistent selection enforced by IRFU player welfare policies following the World Cup last September and October, but the Ballyphehane native is already looking beyond this season.
“Effectively we’re trying to cram a 13-month season into 12 months a year in World Cup years so that is always a balancing act.
“So look, I know we’ve lost a couple of games and every time Munster lose a game, people are disappointed.
“We’re also disappointed by that but it doesn’t detract from the knowledge that we’re doing the right things, that we’re headed in the right direction and that the future is extremely bright,” said Flanagan.