As the soul-searching continues within Munster Rugby in the wake of their European Champions Cup exit, chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald has admitted he too has considered his position with the provincial set-up.
The long-serving Munster chief, in situ since 1999, has presided over two Heineken Cup wins and four Celtic League titles but he has come under fire during a miserable run of form that took a further desperate dive in Paris, when Anthony Foley’s side were trounced 27-7 by 14-man Stade Francais.
It marked the second season in succession Munster have failed to reached the knockout stages and in the immediate aftermath, head coach Foley said he would walk away if he felt he could not get the best out of his players.
Fitzgerald, who appointed Foley in 2014, faced the media yesterday in Limerick and in a wide-ranging press conference called after the appointment of Andy Farrell to an advisory role until the end of the season, he addressed his own position at Munster Rugby.
“The situation is when you are involved in a business every day, you consider your position every day,” Fitzgerald said. “Lots of things go on in this job that you look at and you wonder am I doing it the right way? Is this the best thing for the organisation?
“It isn’t as if I considered it this week.
“The nature of the individual that I am and the way I approach things and the way I feel about an organisation, I could be thinking this every week and it may not be about the team, it could be about facilities, it could be about club game, it could be about underage interprovincials, so ultimately I am employed by the IRFU to be the CEO in Munster.
“We do an annual review every year where there are certain KPI (key performance indicators) set out for each CEO. I try my level best to achieve them and to work beyond what those are.
“To date, all my reviews have been satisfactory. Maybe someday someone will say they are not satisfactory, they are not happy with them. I am around long enough in this business to know that, in any other businesses, to know everyone’s day comes at some stage as I’m sure yours might come as well at some stage. That is what happens.
“Have I considered my position?
“I frequently think about it but I am positive.
“I think I am making a contribution, think I can make a contribution and it would be very fast the day I think I am not making a contribution I’d question myself.”
With Munster currently fifth in the Guinness Pro12 table, even qualifying for the Champions Cup next season presents a challenge but Fitzgerald refused to accept failure to do so for the first time since 1995 was the nightmare scenario.
“The reality of it is... it can happen. Gloucester weren’t in it this year. Wasps weren’t in it a couple of years ago. There is nothing guaranteed in this business anymore.
“You have got to fight for everything, you have got to perform on the team. And if you don’t perform on the field, there are repercussions, and that’s it.
“That’s not something that we are looking at. Our aim is to qualify for it, I think it will be really difficult.
“It’s not something that we want to happen. In any one year, it could happen, and it has happened to lots of others clubs and it could happen to us as well, but have got to do everything we possibly can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
In times of continuing financial straits, Fitzgerald is open to all ideas about improving Munster’s viability, including bringing in a consultant this year to try drive the sale of naming rights for Thomond Park, the stadium for which the province still owes €9 million of its €39m debt to the IRFU following its redevelopment in 2008.
And despite giving his backing to what he believes is an improving Pro12, he would welcome the inception of a British and Irish league.
“It is something that will be discussed in the future but the current Aviva Premiership clubs have a good deal. It will take a little bit to tempt them into that but given the Irish population that lives in England, it is certainly attractive having Irish teams going in.
“They have to look at what bringing the teams in would bring to the market itself.
“If you want to compete long-term with what’s going on in France TV-wise, that’s probably the ultimate goal.”
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