The popularity of Irish rugby on and off the pitch looks set to continue its meteoric rise after the glorious success of Twickenham and a historic Grand Slam.
The IRFU, players and staff and indeed their business partners and sponsors should all reap the benefits of on-field success heading into the crucial 2019 World Cup year.
In the immediate term, the IRFU will bank close to €5m for winning the Six Nations with players receiving healthy win bonuses of €15,000 per game.
IRFU finances are already healthy, with reported revenues in excess of €70m and growing. The federation, spearheaded by one of Ireland’s outstanding sports administrators Philip Browne and supported by his long-standing commercial director Padraig Power, has a full suite of proactive premium sponsors already, including Vodafone, Aer Lingus, Canterbury, ALDI, PwC, AON and Diageo. Many of these sponsors, particularly the likes of Vodafone and the outstanding #TeamOfUs campaign, have helped create a buzz around the team, its fans and the wider collective.
The IRFU has had no issue filling the Aviva for Six Nations or Autumn Internationals and such is the demand for tickets they could comfortably fill a stadium with a 65,000 plus capacity. Next year brings France and England to Dublin ahead of the RWC in Japan and tickets will be scarce.
TV money is hugely important to the IRFU and the Six Nations is the main driver of income. The reported commercial partnership income according to IRFU accounts is over €10m. The players too should continue to benefit from commercial deals such as car partnerships, endorsements, appearances and ambassador contracts. Former players are hot property and should also be kept busy on the promotional circuit and hospitality companies will be locked and loaded for Autumn Internationals and 2019. Both TV3 and eir Sport will be pleased with the rights they acquired. Last year’s Chicago experiment was a resounding success as well.
One of the objectives for the IRFU will be to capitalise on its success and to maintain its suite of sponsors. Another major objective will be to ensure the sport creates a sustainable future for itself.
The positive publicity and goodwill generated should be funnelled into widening the playing population and expanding the footprint at grassroots level. Research carried out by Teneo Sports shows rugby at a peak of popularity and growing over the last decade, bolstered by provincial successes and the reflected glory of the Ireland team. Almost 40% of the population claim to “like” rugby and the massive social appeal of the sport is clear when you factor in the massive TV audiences.
How the IRFU capitalises on the on-field success to translate into additional income and increased popularity will be interesting to observe.
- Kelli O’Keeffe is Managing Director of Teneo PSG Sports
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