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Blank autumn could cost IRFU €20m, interpros set for August

The IRFU stands to lose up to €20million if this season’s Six Nations is not completed and th...

The IRFU stands to lose up to €20million if this season’s Six Nations is not completed and the autumn internationals cancelled. 

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel regarding a return to play, with interprovincial matches pencilled in for August.

CEO Philip Browne has been giving an update on the association’s standing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rugby has been on hold in Ireland since mid-March, and will be among the last sports to return under the government's Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business.

Browne says the IRFU's cash reserves are likely to dry up in a matter of months, if they don't manage to get revenue-generating fixtures on the field.

He's confirmed that an interprovincial series of games has been provisionally scheduled to be played behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium on August 22-23.

He says it's been "almost impossible" to plan for anything, and that those dates now gives the IRFU a set of posts to aim for.

However, it's a lack of autumn international action that could really serve a blow to their coffers.

Browne says that not playing the remaining Six Nations games with Italy and France, along with a cancellation of the autumn internationals will cost between €15-20million.

Even if those games are played behind closed doors, they'll still miss out on €10-15million in ticket sales.

Regarding next season's Six Nations, Browne estimates a €30million loss if it's not played, and half of that if played in empty stadiums.

Browne has welcomed the investment of CVC in the Guinness PRO14.

He's revealed they'll received £5million (€5.6million) up front, in a deal that's worth a total of £30million (€33.5million) across three years.

Stake in the ground

But getting live Guinness PRO14 rugby back on TG4 and Eir Sports could provide some level of buoyancy.

"What's important is that we actually put a target down", Browne told a conference call.

"The difficulty that we've had over the last number of months is just a set of moving targets.

"It's almost impossible to plan for anything when the target keep on moving.

"So, I think we've taken a decision that we'd like to actually put a target in place and try to actually work towards it.

"And that obviously is going to require us working with the health authorities and working within the guidance that's given by the Department of Health.

"But at least if we have a stake set in the ground, we can try and work towards it otherwise we're going to be chasing shadows."

Browne insists that the dates for the interpro games haven't been named just for the sake of it, and that there is actual work underway to make them happen.

"We're not underestimating the difficulty," he added.

"We have put together very detailed return-to-train protocols, return-to-play protocols and event-management protocols - some of which are already with Government, some of which still need to be submitted.

"Essentially, all of those protocols are in place to protect the players, to protect the ancillary staff around a team.

"And in the case of events, in terms of protecting those that are there in terms of broadcasters, media etc etc.

"These haven't been cooked up in some dark corner of Lansdowne Road. We have consulted widely - across sport, across the world - and we're obviously learning from the experiences of others.

"Rob McLaughlin, who is our medical director, has been involved with co-ordinating all of that."

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