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Munster are now in their fourth month without any match day income, and this will continue even when the sport returns on August 22 with inter-pro derbies at an empty Aviva Stadium (stock photo)

Munster are now in their fourth month without any match day income, and this will continue even when the sport returns on August 22 with inter-pro derbies at an empty Aviva Stadium (stock photo)

Munster are now in their fourth month without any match day income, and this will continue even when the sport returns on August 22 with inter-pro derbies at an empty Aviva Stadium (stock photo)

Munster Rugby chief executive Ian Flanagan has warned that the province will continue to lose out on the vast majority of its income as long as the sport is played behind closed doors.

The former Leicester City executive, who took over at Thomond last September, said Munster are in "reasonable shape" despite the "huge challenges" posed by the Covid-19 shutdown.

Munster are now in their fourth month without any match day income, and this will continue even when the sport returns on August 22 with inter-pro derbies at an empty Aviva Stadium.

"The financial challenges are extensive," he said. "Match day income from ticketing, hospitality, merchandise has stopped dead since our last game at Thomond Park.

"The IRFU model is slightly different in that their broadcast deals represent proportionately a bigger slice of the overall revenue. If the Six Nations' outstanding games - the Italy game specifically - if and when that gets played and even if it's behind closed doors which is the model on the table, it will still deliver revenue for the IRFU through broadcasting deals and the Six Nations' end-of-year dividend.

"When we get back to playing games behind closed doors it's a step on the road back to normal, but it's nowhere near revenues as normal because we absolutely need to be playing games in front of our supporters for that to happen.

"I don't think any business can adjust naturally or easily when virtually all of its revenue is just stopped dead overnight for an indefinite period of time."

Those inter-provincial derbies will be part of a curtailed Guinness PRO14 run-in and Flanagan confirmed the league currently plans to start the 2020-21 season on the first weekend in October.

Meanwhile, Munster have concluded their review of their anti-doping education procedures in the wake of the James Cronin case and Flanagan says they are happy to welcome the prop back into the fold.

Cronin served a one-month ban after testing positive for two banned corticosteroids after a draw with Racing 92 last November. The suspension started and finished during the shutdown.

An EPCR hearing found the player bore "no significant fault" for taking the banned substance as a result of a pharmacy error.

"Clearly, the one-month sanction reflects the fact that there was no significant fault or blame attached to James and we've made it clear that we're looking forward to seeing James come back and playing for Munster again," said Flanagan.

Belfast Telegraph