Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

IRFU turns back on Croke Park

The rugby match between England and Ireland at Croke Park in February 2007 netted a bumper pay packet for GAA but now the IRFU are sticking with Landsdowne Road

It has been confirmed that the GAA is now resigned to missing out on a major cash windfall.

Rugby is set to return to the new 50,000 capacity Lansdowne Road next year, but there was a feeling that Croke Park with its 82,500 capacity would continue to host games in the Six Nations against England and France.

But IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has given this the thumbs down insisting that Lansdowne Road will be the venue for all rugby internationals from 2010.

It’s a major blow to the GAA which has benefited to the tune of £30m in rental revenue since they first opened their gates to soccer and rugby.

Browne revealed that the Lansdowne Development company had made certain irreversible commitments to commercial partners, which effectively ruled out considering Croker once Lansdowne Road became available.

If that wasn’t bad enough the FAI wasted no time in standing firm behind the IRFU revealing they have no plans to use Croke Park beyond 2010.

The opening of the Jones Road venue has generated approximately £30m for the GAA since 2007.

There is no doubt the money had been a massive boost for the sport. Every county was getting £180,000 a year while Croke Park remained open to other sports.

The GAA for their part maintain that they never budgeted for the rental income beyond next year.

“We were never under any illusion that that the leasing of the stadium would continue after next year,” said operations manager Fergal McGill.

“There’s no doubt we’ve benefited hugely from the staging of both rugby and soccer games in Croke Park and that revenue was greatly appreciated, but we had no plans for anything beyond 2010.

That financial bonanza allowed the GAA to pump a whopping £15m into establishing 12 centres of excellence up and down the country.

Rental income currently yields in the region of £750,000 a game, with the Croke Park stadium committee announcing handsome profits of £1 m for the past year.

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