Ian Flanagan sees enormous potential for Munster in places rugby has not yet reached, thanks to a successful first World Cup on Asian soil this season in Japan.
“Rugby is in a very positive space at the moment,” the Munster CEO told the Irish Examiner.
“The World Cup was very positive for rugby on a global level and Munster have global ambitions. We want to be speaking to Irish fans all over the world and Munster fans in particular and if there’s a new rugby fan, whether they’re in China, India, or wherever, we want Munster to be one of the clubs that they look at and say, ‘you know what? I love what that club stands for’.”
Flanagan sees parallels with football 20 years ago, having worked as a consultant to Barcelona when the Catalan club was looking to emerge from the shadow of Real Madrid and expand their brand into Asia.
“I did some work with Barcelona years ago and they were second-best for a long time before they won because Real Madrid had all the natural advantages. They were the government club, they were in the capital, they had lots of money. You can see the similarities.
“Real had a debt of €200m, the Spanish government bought their training ground for €200m and gave them a new one and I remember the guys I worked with at Barcelona were saying ‘how can we compete with this? We’ll never be able to compete’.
“It took time. People won’t remember that Barcelona were a second-rate brand and no one was interested in going there if you were serious about winning or being the best. It was only when Barcelona began to harness what they had that was positive and start to talk to the world about it and that independent identity, it had a real authenticity to it.
“People are really bored around the world with that rich club that throws money at stuff, the Yankees, the Patriots, Real Madrid, it’s not much of a story anymore. But people woke up to Barcelona on a global level when they started to talk about what they did have. They had the fanbase, the passion, they were almost a country within a country and we have some elements of that too, we really do.
“We need to get better about communicating our story and telling it to the world because people love that and it crosses language barriers, religious barriers, national barriers.
“People understand what it means to be an underdog but to have a realness, a passion, an authenticity, and trust me, there’s a lot of clubs that have to try hard to manufacture this.
“You look at Racing on the weekend, all of that experience, brilliant but manufactured. They’re trying to find fans, they’re trying to get first-generation fans. We have so many positives and I want to accentuate the positive and tell that to the world. That’s where we’re heading.”