Supporters Questions for the Chief Executive…
December 13, 2010 12:00 am client
1. Will Leinster be moving to the Aviva?
No, it is not our intention to move to the Aviva Stadium, we are four years into a 20 year deal with the RDS and it is our intention to stay in the RDS. We do intend to use the Aviva however, on two occasions a year if we feel there is a demand for tickets.
2. Due to financial restraints this year unfortunately I was unable to renew my Season Ticket, however if there had been a facility for Direct Debit monthly payments I could have managed. Will this facility be available in the future considering the times we live in right now?
I think this facility should be available in the future and I will talk to the Ticketing operation in Leinster and see if we can organise something for the coming season.
3. Why weren’t Terrace season ticket holders given the chance to upgrade seats for the Munster match but given the opportunity instead for the Clermont game?
The Munster match was the first professional rugby match played in the stadium and I think that a number of mistakes were made in relation to ticketing and when we reviewed the game we have tried to rectified any mistakes that were made for the Munster match by improving the situation for the Clermont game.
4. I’m just wondering why Leinster haven’t organised a game with one of the big southern hemisphere teams. Munster played the All Blacks a few years ago and Australia this year. If it is cost related, why could Samoa host South Africa?
Leinster have being trying to organise a fixture against a Southern Hemisphere team in the November International window but unfortunately the IRFU won’t sanction the fixture as I believe they feel if would be in direct competition with what they are trying to do with the November Internationals but it is something that we will be looking at in the future and hopefully will be able to play one of the big Southern Hemisphere sides in November 2012 as there will be no Autumn Internationals next year due to the World Cup.
5. I am a Leinster Rugby supporter and firstly would like to thank the Leinster set up for the great time I had at the Magners League game against Munster. My question is have you put in place a business strategy with further downside risk with regard to sales and sponsorship given the current economic outlook and do you think that Leinster can maintain their current international standing as one of the top clubs in world rugby through this current recession?
We are acutely aware of the current recessionary times that we live in and we are constantly stress-testing our business model and we are aware that ticket sales and sponsorship could decrease in the current economic climate. We are also aware that during recessionary times sport and entertainment are two things that actually thrive as they are relatively cheap forms of entertainment so we must make sure that we get our ticket pricing right and the team keep performing on the pitch.
I am optimistic that we can continue to be one of the top clubs in Europe and that is part of our vision and our missionary statement to continue to play rugby at that level.
6. A couple of the Leinster players, Jamie Heaslip being a prominent example, have expressed a desire to experience Super 15 or Top 14 rugby at some stage during their careers.
Considering that after the World Cup a new four year cycle begins, might it be an opportune time to develop some type of player swap system with clubs in France and the Super 15?
Our players could move to a foreign club for one or two seasons and Leinster could sign an equivalent player from that club for the same period. Were Heaslip to move to Stade Francais for example, Sergio Parisse would be a nice player to have moving in the opposite direction.
I acknowledge that indigenous player development must be a consideration in the long term but I still feel that there would be a huge amount to gain from this type of alliance and young players could not but benefit from exposure to some of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest.
In the current model of the Leinster squad we are allowed to have five overseas plus one special project player in our squad so bearing this in mind it is always very important that we have a vast majority of indiginous quality players availble to Leinster for selection. This is why the Academy is such an important vehicle for us to continue to produce quality players and this is something that we are endeavouring to do.
I too have heard that Jamie Heaslip state that he wouldn’t mind playing in the Super 15 or Top 14 and I am sure a number of other younger players would also have an ambition to travel. Having said that it is our intention to keep our home-grown quality players in the Leinster set up and Joe Schmidt is very keen to provide an environment that they are keen to stay in so hopefully we will be able to keep the likes of Jamie in our squad for the coming seasons.
The player swap idea that you mentioned is a very good idea the only point that you have to bear in mind is a personal choice for example Sergio Parisse might have no interest in coming over here but it is still our intention to sign high profile overseas players to augment our squad of indiginous players. I also think that your point is well made that it could be good for Irish players to get the experience of playing overseas the problem with that logic is there is no guarantee that they will come back and play here.
7. I’ve been a Season Ticket holder for a number of years. At the RDS I enjoy a sideline position in the Anglesea Terrace. My allocated seat in Lansdowne Road is terrible and to change, Leinster Rugby wants to heap on extra charges. Do you not value you loyal fan base? Why do you shaft us, giving us the worst seats in the house and let occasional – or worse still – the opposition fans get better spots? I hope for the latter stages of the Cup you will give some consideration to your loyal fans and offer us reasonably priced tickets in good seats, otherwise, I and many of my fellow Season Tickets holders will watch from home.
Season Ticket holders are our most valuable commodity and are one of the biggest stakeholders in Leinster Rugby and we value their loyal support and would never take them for granted or presume that they will continue to support the team.
For the Leinster v Munster match in the Aviva Stadium we made a decision that we would put all our Season Ticket holders in the lower tier of the ground in order to create the best atmosphere and make sure that the team got the best support they could and that there was no Munster supporters in the lower tier at all. It is not our intention to shaft anybody or to give anybody the worst seats in the house or to give the opposition fans better spots.
I believe we made some mistakes for the Munster match and we are constantly looking at our business model and hopefully we will get it right for future matches in the Aviva Stadium. I look forward to your continued support.
8. Is there any scope to develop the Anglesea Stand?
Yes, we have architects drawings for a new Anglesea Stand and we are currently working with the RDS to see how soon we can start, how much it will cost and what the revenues would be for future years but it is definitely on the cards.
9. At the last census, there was roughly seven hundred and fifty thousand males aged between 16 and 60 residing in Leinster, 52% in the greater Dublin area. That means just under half your target market for merchandising sales reside in the other 11 counties in the province.
Liam Hayes (a Meath native) in the Sunday Tribune’s look back at the last decade said “By the end of this decade, Munster had become the team most loved by all GAA fans, and a team which we honestly and truly belive to be made up of our ‘own stuff’, of our own flesh and blood, and inherent values.”
My question is, what is Leinster Rugby doing to create a stronger emotional connection with Leinster GAA people in the other 11 counties?
Leinster are acutely aware of the size of the province and are very conscious of the fact that our brand needs to spread outside of the Dublin area. Having said that I think that in recent years our brand has been spreading and if you look at the addresses of our Season Ticket holders you will see that there is huge support for the province outside of the traditional South Dublin area.
We as an organisation are acutely aware of spreading our brand and over the last few years we have had training sessions for the team in various different centres outside the capital, we have also initiated a ticketing policy whereby we give special discounted offers to clubs and schools to take large numbers of children to either the RDS or the Aviva Stadium and I think this is spreading the word. We have also done a deal with Champion Sports who have shops throughout the province whereby we will have instore shops selling Leinster merchandising and also we will be offering people the facility of buying tickets through these shops.
We are not just trying to hit Leinster GAA people in the other 11 counties, we are trying to hit all of the people living in these counties and it is more of a family initiative rather than targeting the male 16-60 year old demographic as I am sure you are aware from your visits to the RDS it is very much a family occasion and we are just as keen to have women and children supporting the team as we are to have males supporting the team.
10. Could the ‘big screen’ in the RDS be returned to it’s original position please? It is now practically impossible for most of the supporters in the Grandstand (and I would imagine the same applies to the North Stand) to see it.
Or could another screen be installed in the opposite corner of the ground?
The big screen is something that we discuss on a regular basis with the RDS and we are aware that there are problems. This is something we are discussing on an ongoing basis with the people in the RDS and we are also looking at the possibility of installing a second screen somewhere in the ground.
11. Can you please explain why I am being given a seat behind the posts at the Havelock Square end as a replacment for my Terrace season ticket? On the terrace I am at the side of the pitch and have an excellent view. I had almost no view at the Munster match and was seriously annoyed with the treatment. I have been a Season Ticket holder for a good while now and really feel that you are putting profit over loyalty. It is simply not good enough. I would also like to know if you will be giving us back a book of tickets as it is very difficult to give my ticket to someone else at the moment.
See response to Question 7.
12. Why have Leinster not recruited a specific defensive coach?
The recruitment of the Leinster backroom staff is the responsibility of the Senior Coach. Joe Schmidt when he was involved with Clermont, did all the defensive coaching and he feels very comfortable in that position. However, I think that if the right person appeared on the landscape he would be keen to take someone on board.
13. What are the development and lease plans for the RDS?
We currently are in the fourth year of a twenty year arrangement with the RDS. We have a break clause after five and ten years. After five years we have the opportunity to buy ourselves out of the lease and after ten years we can walk away. However, it is our intention to stay in the RDS for the long term and to take some marquee matches to the Aviva Stadium and hopefully in the short term to redevelop the Anglesea Stand.
14. Do you have any comments on Bernard Jackman’s recent criticism of how the Leinster Branch manage contract negotiations and how this appears to be affecting team morale? How will this be addressed as a number of key contracts are up after the World Cup?
I don’t accept Bernard Jackman’s recent criticism about Leinster’s contract negotiations and I also don’t accept the fact that it has an affect on team morale. Contract negotiations are always difficult times and we as an organisation are always keen to address them as quickly and as best we can and we are acutely aware that a number of the contracts are up post-World Cup and we are doing our best to address to as many of these as possible.
15. How do you feel the current arrangement with the IRFU suits Leinster? Would it be financially and strategically feasible for Leinster Rugby to be an independent entity that was not answerable to the IRFU?
I feel that the current arrangement between the IRFU and Leinster works reasonably well even though there is always a natural tension about player availability and the fact that we feel some Leinster players should be allowed play more games for the province. However the central contracting system would appear to work in favour of the player as there is a fairly good player welfare program which means the players would appear to get a reasonably good time out of their careers. Even in the UK where the players are contracted by the clubs the Unions still have a major role to play in how many games the players play in a season and also how often they are available to play for their clubs.
Under current IRB regulations, players must be released for International duty so no matter what system you operate there is always going to be a tension between the club and the Union and we have seen this in recent times with the fights between the WRU and their regions and the fights between the RFU and their clubs so I don’t think there is an ideal solution.
I think it would be possible for Leinster financially to become an independent rugby club but I don’t think it’s going to happen or that the Union will allow it to happen and even if we did become an independent entity you still are required to have a very close working relationship with the IRFU.
16. May I ask if larger terraces for standing fans are included in the future plans for Leinster Rugby? I believe terraces are an integral part of rugby grounds and provide for greater atmosphere at games.
We are currently looking at a redevelopment of the Anglesea Stand and we acknowledge that the terrace is an integral part of what we do and we would plan to have a terrace as part of the new redevelopment whenever it happens.