The IRFU has launched a furious onslaught on proposals which would require Six Nations and Heineken Cup matches to be shown on free-to-air television.
Green Party Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, is seeking to add these to the list of sporting events to be made available to all viewers free of charge. The plans would cost the IRFU €12million or 18% of their total income.
The implications of the Ministers proposals are horrendous. The IRFU has skilfully invested much of this income in developing a sound provincial structure which is the envy of many of our competitors. Most of Irelands top players have remained at home thanks to the revenues generated by deals with subscription channels such as Sky and Setanta. These revenues help fund their salaries. Munster (2), Leinster and Ulster have all won the Heineken Cup. This is an amazing record considering the small rugby playing population in Ireland. It is a tribute to the stewardship of the IRFU.
If the Minister gets his way the IRFU will no longer have the income to fund the salaries of top players such as O'Gara, O'Driscoll. The provinces will be bled dry as top French and English clubs plunder their resources. No wonder English and French clubs are smacking their lips at the prospects of an Irish Minister destroying Irish rugby. Make no mistake about it. Minister Ryan has lost the run of himself. The Minister is a theoretician. Unfortunately his proposals are ill-conceived. Under Ryan's proposals second rate Munster and Leinster teams shorn of their talented players will play at an empty Thomond Park and an empty RDS on free to view terrestial TV. Also the Minister would create a massive split between Rugby Union in Munster, Leinster and Connacht on the one hand and Ulster on the other. Ulster after all is not under his jurisdiction.
Opposition to Mr Ryans proposals is developing. Munster and Leinster fans will not stand idly by and watch their provincial sides dismantled by Minister Ryan. A general election is due by 2012 if not earlier. The government would be advised to back off while it has time. Thankfully FG through its spokesman Simon Coveney has come out strongly against this idiocy. Where are the FF backbenchers?
Wake up Minister and stop the waffling. The €12 million loss which would ensue from your proposals cannot be made up by other means.
The current mix of free-to-air and pay-per-view platforms has served Irish rugby well. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Minister Ryan do you want to go down in history as the man who destroyed Irish rugby?