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Bold business decisions are needed to sustain rugby’s provincial teams

Is it time for the IRFU to step outside their local power zone and make a few bold business decisions for the welfare and future of the professional players under their control?

They certainly do a good job in providing international sides with good coaches.

To be fair to the IRFU, they have made brave calls in the past. Most notably at the time of the start of the professional game. Despite the criticism that followed, and that is still around, they saved the raw material from complete professional annihilation. Now I feel it is time for action again.

Professional sport is global and one of the biggest industries in the world today — manufacturing, wholesale, retail, entertainment, media, and participation.

Players are the most important and main ingredient in this industry, full stop.

We recognise that player power can be divisive and destructive, however the business is about quality, money and profit. Money helps to achieve a successful product — success opens the door to investment and sponsorship — this in turn helps to bring more money in for development and more success, and so goes the cycle if managed properly.

A rugby player, like most sports people, has a limited career time. A professional rugby player needs to focus on his earning capacity to reflect his ability and contribution to the success of the team. Medals and cups do not provide a living or security. Yes it will always be an honour to wear the jersey and indeed captain the team.

However, in the professional sports fields of today I reflect on a statement from a high-profile Cork GAA player during the time of the strike.

“It is an honour to wear the red jersey, but the real honour is winning in one”. Winning is the aim in the professional world of sport

Do the IRFU really see the PRO12 league providing the necessary financial packages for our top players? Unless Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, two of our declared billionaires, get involved, I cannot see a sustained level of top players staying at home.

The money- and business-orientated league is in England and France.

The CEO of Munster, Garrett Fitzgerald, in an interview with the press recently hit the nail on the head — maybe we have to consider a British and Irish league.

At present we have four teams who can enhance the English league with their contribution on the field. Leave it too late and we might as well re-introduce the Interprovincals for part-time professionals.

Jim Hennebry

Blackrock

Cork


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