IRFU relieved by free-to-air decision

THE IRFU’s bean counters breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when the government decided not to impose free-to-air restrictions on the European club and Six Nations competitions.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, could have pulled Sky Sports monopoly of the Heineken and Amlin Cups, potentially costing the union 18% (€12 million) of their annual income.

Previous Minister, Eamon Ryan, mooted the move but the IRFU claimed their ability to hold on to home-grown players would have been seriously diminished and Connacht’s future would be over.

“We have been developing our commercial platform for over 10 years now and have no idea how the Minister thinks that greater viewership, which is a questionable proposition in itself, will yield €12 million to us,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne at the time.

However Rabbitte dismissed the threat noting a balance had to be struck with the game’s financial security and viewers’ access.

“This issue represented a significant threat to the survival of the game in Ireland and the decision will allow the IRFU to continue to invest in the development of rugby at grassroots levels and help retain Irish rugby’s competitiveness at club and international level,” a statement read yesterday.

“The IRFU welcomes the decision by Minister Rabbitte and the government in relation to the review of designated sporting events.”


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