After three successive years showing a deficit, the Irish Rugby Football Union has announced a surplus of 0.8million for the 2005/06 season.
Making the announcement at the IRFU's annual Council meeting, Honorary Treasurer John Lyons told delegates that, in a season in which Ireland won the Triple Crown, Munster won the Heineken Cup and Ulster won the Celtic League title: "Income has increased significantly as a result of three home RBS 6 Nations matches being staged at Lansdowne Road...from increased revenues generated by broadcasting and commercial contracts...and by performance related increases in revenue resultant from performances of the national and provincial teams."
The main headline figures showed an increase in revenue turnover from 38.85million in 2004/05 to 46.4million; direct professional costs of 25.6million, compared to 23.5million the previous year; an increase of 0.4million to 2.1million for the elite Player Development programme and an increase from 8.1million to 9.2million in the IRFU's allocation of funds and resources to the domestic game.
Lyons said: "The financial return from competition performance reflects the significant investment which has been made in the professional game over the last seven years, and the enhanced dividend from the professional game will thus allow the Union to increase the level of funding to the domestic and elite development areas of the game."
Looking positively to the future, he added: "The Union faces significant changes to its operating profile with its matches moving from the existing stadium at Lansdowne Road and ultimately the construction and use of the new stadium. As can be expected, these moves will have a very significant impact on the Union's cash flows and profitability. Short, medium and long term projections were prepared prior to all decisions in this respect and the long term effects on the Union's finances are very positive."
...IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne shows IRB Chairman Dr. Syd Millar a model of the new Lansdowne Road stadium...
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne, in his upbeat report, said that significant progress has been made at the half way point in the four-year Strategic Plan's key priorities for Irish rugby to become a stronger consistent force at the top of the professional game, to increase the player base in vibrant schools, clubs and universities/colleges and to maximise the Union's revenues to invest in Irish rugby.
Browne explained that "there were in excess of 100,000 players in schools, clubs, universities and colleges in 2006 and the trend is for continuing strong growth at underage level, whilst, at adult level there is a modest growth in some sectors."
Browne added: "The initiatives that are being developed with the Branches and clubs in relation to the domestic club game are important. We do not want rugby to be simply a spectator sport, its roots and its strengths are as a participation sport. The positive overall growth in playing numbers is encouraging in this respect. The challenge is to build capacity and structure our competitions to ensure that the growing numbers are accommodated."
Browne further stated: "The current well being of the professional game brings with it the heightened profile of rugby, a profile that could not have been imagined 10 years ago, but it has the potential to mask the growing concerns of how to sustain the levels of performance we have come to expect as the norm.
"The need to use our collective resources from schools, club and provincial teams to develop the next generation of professional rugby players is paramount and it is crucial that each unit of our game understand the role it plays in this process and the benefits that flow from success at each level."
In relation to the building of the new stadium at Lansdowne Road, he said: "At the moment the progress of the project is on schedule and temporary arrangements for the 2007 RBS 6 Nations championship have been agreed with the GAA at Croke Park. This gesture by the GAA is most welcome and appreciated and the staging of two Six Nations matches against France and England next season will be a hugely historic occasion."
Browne added: "Similarly, at provincial level, significant progress has been made by Ulster, Munster and Leinster in relation to the ground improvements at Ravenhill, Thomond Park and Donnybrook. With these improvements come greater revenue generating capacity and potential - critical if the professional game at provincial level is to become self-financing."