The OLSC recently arranged for Leinster Rugby CEO Michael Dawson to answer questions submitted by supporters…
Q: Can you please provide an update on redvelopement plans at the RDS, specfically will there be a terrace and Laighin Out supporters bar in the new set up ?
A: Discussions around the redevelopment are ongoing. We expect there to be a terrace in some form along with a supporters bar and a number of food and beverage outlets, we hope to know more in the coming months. At this point we are assessing all possibilities regarding design and layout. More details (when known) will be communicated on www.leinsterrugby.ie
Q: Do Leinster Rugby have any plans to encourage the use of social media on match days to promote exclusive specials on food, beverages, club merchandise etc.?
A: At the moment in the RDS, as we are tenants who do not control the food and beverages we cannot use social media to offer exclusive specials. We do communicate with our season ticket holders, supporters, Patrons, our friends on Twitter and Facebook, the Ezine etc. in relation to club merchandise.
Q: Please provide some clarity on how the central IRFU contracts work? Can Irish qualified players be contracted to Leinster without having to be available for the National side and do you see any potential issues for us with the way central contracts work in future (and the restrictions on how many players can be contracted at any one time)?
A: All professional rugby players in Ireland including academy players are contracted to the IRFU and the IRFU underwrite the cost of all these players. In some circumstances the IRFU will play 100% of the player’s contract which is generally for players that are on or very close to the National team. The balance of the contracts the costs are shared between the Union and the province. All the contracts state that the player is available for provincial and National rugby and there is no precedent for a player to be contracted to a province and retiring for International rugby.
There are no restrictions on the number of players that Leinster can contract as long as we can afford to pay them. There is however a finite number that the Union will contribute towards.
Q: Are there any plans for Leinster supporters to view the new facilities at UCD?
A: Presently there are no plans to allow the supporters to view the facilities at UCD. This is a working office and we don’t feel it would be practical to have supporter tours of the facility.
Q: Are there any plans to play any PRO12 games or even friendlies outside Dublin?
A: There are no plans to play any PRO12 games or Heineken Cup matches outside Dublin. We do bring training sessions around the province and that is the best way we feel for the team to interact with supporters who live outside the city. We will probably aim to play one of our pre-season friendlies in a location such as Tallaght either this year or next, subject to venue availability. We have in the region of 13,000 season ticket holders who buy the season ticket on the basis that the matches will played in the RDS or the AVIVA. I’m also not aware of any rugby ground outside Dublin that would hold 15-16,000 people.
Q: Could you please provide some clarity around the need for an 8% increase in some season ticket prices for 13/14?
A: There has been no rise in season ticket prices in the last 5 years and we believe the season tickets are very cheap and that is why we put the prices up in some categories. We will be monitoring it on an on-going basis. The “Early Bird” offering also still enables supporters to avail of a significant discount, while there are a host of other benefits for season ticket holders.
Q: Guinness are sponsors of Leinster Rugby, can you please advise why a pint is €;5.70 in the RDS?
A: Guinness are a sponsor of Leinster Rugby, they are also a sponsor of the RDS and as I explained earlier on, unfortunately Leinster Rugby do not control the food or beverages within the facility. I have been told that although all the catering and bars are brought in from the outside, it’s quite expensive to run but it is something that we are constantly monitoring and we have asked on a number of occasions for the drink prices to be reduced.
Q: Do you know when we will be able to see coverage of all our away games on TV, internet stream or even on a delayed basis?
A: We have met with the PRO12 Chief Executive, John Feehan and Ryle Nugent from RTE and we are constantly in discussions with them in relation to getting as many matches televised as possible. It is obviously a frustration because we have a growing supporter base who we would like to cater for both nationally and internationally, but as I said earlier, talks are ongoing.
Q: Are you able to advise if we are in the process of signing a current international capped second row in addition to Mike McCarthy?
A: We are not in the process of signing any more second row forwards.
Q: Why was an English company selected to design and operate the new www.leinsterrugby.ie website?
A: Because in our opinion they are the best in their field with a proven track record in top quality rugby and sports websites.
Q:Was there any justification for adjusting the angle of the big screen at the north stand end of the ground as those in the stand can longer see it.
A: We are aware that the big screens are a very important part of the Leinster Rugby match day experience and we would be looking at addressing the angle of the screens during the summer period.
Q: Can you please explain, why in these difficult times season ticket renewals needed to be paid up by the 22nd of March?
A: There is a delayed payment option available whereby a season ticket can by paid for in two separate tranches, one of which is later than the 22nd March. We will aim to facilitate supporters because we’re acutely aware of the significant cost (both emotional and financial!) of supporting the team, especially given our qualification for our knock-out games in recent months. And we are extremely grateful for the support we get both at home and abroad.
Q: Do you have a favourite memory date of your time in charge and what do you see as the biggest off field achievement to date?
A: I think my favourite memory date would be winning the Heineken Cup against Leicester in Murrayfield in 2009. As regards the biggest off field achievement, there are two in my opinion; one would be moving from Donnybrook to the RDS to play all our senior fixtures and the second would be the move to the new facilities in UCD.
Q: Would you consider inviting one of the main South African Super 15 teams to the RDS for an exhibition game?
A: This is something we have thought about we have also thought about the possibility of playing against one of the Southern Hemisphere National teams when they are on tour here in November. There are a number of reasons why these things are difficult, one is finding a date that suits everybody, and the second is finding a date where we would be able to produce close to a full strength team to be really competitive. This season alone we have played 33 competitive matches and 2 warm up matches which is 35 weekends. There has also been eight Internationals, a Lions Tour, a Summer Tour to North America, the emerging Irish Tour to Georgia and the Ireland Under-20 World Cup which means there are very few windows in the calendar for playing against any other super Rugby teams or even any of the Southern Hemisphere teams given that we are generally playing PRO12 matches during the November series.
We would like to thank Michael for taking time out to answer these questions during what recently has been a busy time for the province.
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