Munster Rugby set to bounce back to breakeven

Munster Rugby are set to bounce back to a ‘break even’ by 2023 despite impacts of €4-5m on match revenue and on turnover of up to €15m per season during Covid.

Chief Operating Officer Philip Quinn says that despite operating at a deficit pre-Covid and being massively impacted throughout the pandemic the province is on track to report a strong financial position.

“We have to get to an annual break-even position,” said Quinn. “2022-23 is the target with the IRFU – will we get there? We’re confident that we will. It will be dependent on some things but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

With annual turnover and match revenues effectively wiped out by the effects of Covid along with ancillary income at Thomond Park and Musgrave Park devastated, the club has scaled back in recent times, particularly in playing staff.

“We’ve had to make significant cost reductions right across the club, which is not what you want to do and there has been some really tough decisions,” he said. “Our biggest area is around the player costs, we’ve had to take significant reductions there over the last two years and for the season just finished ’21-’22 and (heading into next) season ’22-’23.

“We’ve pulled a huge amount out of our player costs and that was evident in terms of losing some of our higher profile players, especially Irish high-profile players.”

Quinn and CEO Munster Rugby, Ian Flanagan, have been excited by the young players which have emerged at the Academy and through the underage structures, which has somewhat softened the blow of losing bigger names.

“We are lucky in terms of the quality of players coming through our player pathway – that we were able to bring those players in – and then unfortunately we are losing a bit of experience from the other end.

“But that’s the ‘joys’ from where we’re at following the pandemic and the financial realities of it.”

Munster Rugby’s figures for the disrupted season just gone are still being worked on by the financial side, and will heavily feature subsidies and Sport Ireland payments – which have come through the IRFU.

The club will have the final tallies sent to auditors in the coming weeks and will decide then if there is a need to go public on these numbers before the end of the year.

While ticket price will not increase, the club is expecting to introduce a significant new car sponsor in the short term, and one which fits into its sustainability drive which has set the club apart.

Legacy debt will also be addressed this year – with survivability being the key through the pandemic and Philip Quinn was eager to point out that repayments on Thomond Park’s redevelopment 15 years ago are down from €42m to €6.5m.

“There’s a lot written about how that ‘cripples’ Munster – ‘Oh, Munster aren’t competitive, they can’t afford to spend any money because of this Thomond Park debt.’ That’s not a fair reflection of where we’re at as our player budgets are comparable with the majority of our competitors.

“Our repayments on that loan are €100k per year, compared to a turnover of €13-15m and sometimes higher than that – I’m not playing it down – but the repayment is not a big number and there is no interest on that loan at present.”

*Read more in The Business of Sport, in Thursday’s Examiner Sport.

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