IRFU cruising into uncharted waters

I understand the queue for the new post of IRFU director of communications extends around the corner from Lansdowne to Northumberland Road. A whopping 70 CVs have landed through the letter box since it was advertised. The question is not that so many want to work in Sleepy Hollow, but if those already there realise what they might be letting themselves in for.

The notion of having a director of communications is fine, so long as that’s actually what you’re looking for. If on the other hand what you really want is an air freshener, someone to deal with the smell created by an accident in the committee room, then that’s a different requirement.

We’ve had some nuclear spills in Lansdowne Road in recent times. The proposed culling of Connacht in 2003; the crazed AIL plan of 2005 where regional leagues would take up half the season instead of national competition; the ticket pricing fiasco for the new Lansdowne Road; or, most recently, the removal by bazooka of Non Ireland Qualified players.

All of these had the hallmark of something conceived in a room with little fresh air, and no concept of what the plans would look like in the world outside. Naturally enough, the smell wouldn’t go away and the IRFU were slaughtered in the media.

Creating a position like this – which will pay circa €90k – will be good for the union’s business if, as the job spec suggests, the successful candidate will be in on the act before rather than after it hits the stage. This will involve a significant shift in the way the IRFU works.

Moreover it will highlight further the anachronism that is a professional game run by amateurs. The decision-making power is still vested in the honorary men who govern by committee. Introducing a communications professional to that mix will add an interesting element to the dynamic.

Effective pr has never been the union’s thing, whether it’s the simple match-day stuff of presenting enough players for interview, or long term strategising. It’s dawned on a few of them however that they need to communicate effectively with government, a relationship they never thought too much about until Eamon Ryan tried his solo run with the tv rights two years ago, the financial implications of which sent the IRFU into a tailspin.

I wonder do they reckon that hiring someone who can bat at that level will cover their backsides on other issues? Eh, not if it doesn’t involve taking the role seriously.

For sure they need someone to represent the union in its best light, to promote the value rugby adds to the nation, for streams like the Sports Council grant become ever more important with every cutback in other areas.

You can’t get serious about one aspect of your business however if the foundation was designed for a different model in a different era. It’s all or nothing. You reckon they have opened this discussion yet?





About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
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1 Response to IRFU cruising into uncharted waters

  1. Bill McIlwaine says:

    So you didn’t get the job? Maybe another will pop up in future. Keep trying and never give up, Brendan.

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