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IRFU Chief Talks About A Mental PRO12 Expansion That Would Be Feckin' Awesome

IRFU Chief Talks About A Mental PRO12 Expansion That Would Be Feckin' Awesome
By Conor O'Leary Updated

IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne delivered a stark message about the state of Irish rugby yesterday. Browne delivered what was essentially an ultimatum to the provinces to stop spending so much money, start increasing your revenues, and generate better players.

Sounds simple enough.

But amidst the threats and admissions that they don't expect Munster to be able to repay them on the loan, Browne did put forward a solution. And by god it's bloody exciting as a supporter.

He wants to expand the PRO12. To where? To America:

The east coast of the US, why not?

Why not indeed? Apart from the bucket load of logistical reasons - as a purely supporters point of view - and someone who would want to go to the east coast of America regularly - that would be amazing.

But apparently this isn't a pipe dream. From what Browne was saying, there have been major discussions about it, and having looked at the expanding Super Rugby competition into Argentina and Japan - they want to follow suit:

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The one thing we can bring to bear, as four unions, is if you operate a franchise model we can provide the coaches, we can provide the administrative expertise.

So, that’s what we are looking at. If we are going to do this we are not going to do it on the basis of putting together a half-baked team. What we need is a good team working in a market that has commercial opportunities for us.

Clearly the idea behind it is to tap into the lucrative American market. The TV money that the Premiership (€51 million) and the Top 14 (€97 million) get completely dwarves the €14 million value of the PRO12 TV deal. Browne is aware that the national audience in America wouldn't be huge for rugby initially - but as he points out, finding a niche in a lucrative local market on the east coast - probably Boston (that's our guess not anything being reported) - would be massive.

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Browne did go on to express his frustration at the lack of money in the PRO12, and that even if the American dream didn't work out, that something radical would need to happen.

Change is required if the Pro12 is to remain a meaningful tournament. The revenues generated by the tournament need to double or treble if the participating clubs/provinces are to remain competitive with the clubs in the English and French leagues.

Such an increase in values will require some radical change to the tournament and how it is structured. The expansion of the tournament into new territories is probably a prerequisite and the first steps are being taken now in relation to a new strategic plan for the tournament.

If it happens, I'll be the first to book my flights to Boston. I think we'll have to see how Ireland's Chicago test works out first.

Murica here I come.

[Irish Times]

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See Also: Confirmed: Munster Lose One Of Their Most Promising Talents After Inexplicably Not Offering A Contract

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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