DISCUSSIONS between Ireland and South Africa to play a €1.2 million challenge game in the United Arab Emirates are moving swiftly towards a successful conclusion.
The commercial and marketing director of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Padraic Power, hopes the world champions will agree to a November 1 clash in Abu Dhabi or at another venue in the UAE.
It’s a game that will reap up to €400,000 after expenses for the IRFU, with the Springboks set to receive almost double that figure from income generated through international company sponsorship in the area.
The Irish Rugby Football Union, in the midst of a huge financial outlay for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, would welcome any new income this season, although Mr Power was unable to confirm the precise figure on offer.
He stressed: “The whole thing is still at the discussion stage but moving along, although there are questions to be asked and answers required.”
IRFU chiefs are already committed to international games in Ireland on successive weekends in November, against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina. While the addition of a fourth game would be welcomed by the account managers of the organisation, it mightn’t rest so easily with the players and coaches.
There are some difficulties in organising this fixture — one of the problems will be the provision of a stadium that will cater to the wishes of the supporters in an alcohol sensitive area.
For that reason, it appears, the city of Al Ain, in the northern part of Abu Dhabi, is being touted as a possible host venue for the game. The stadium there is run by Amblers rugby club which has its own clubhouse, bar and state of the art facilities and could cater for a crowd of up to 30,000.
Abu Dhabi has two well-established stadiums that could cater for a crowd of up to 50,000 but they are run by local sports authorities which are unlikely to give their approval to an event where a lot of spectators will want to consume alcohol.
Meanwhile the IRFU reported a loss of just €98,000 for the last financial year, a period when there were no money-spinning autumn internationals. The financial outlook is good according to honorary treasurer Tom Grace, who said the targets are being met. Last year’s loss, he stressed, was predicted given the fact that it was World Cup year.
“Everyone should be aware that a downturn in the economy can affect every business, but things are looking good because of the way the finances have been managed over recent years; good management which is a tribute to a lot of people in the organisation,” he said.
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