IRFU COMMUNITY RUGBY PROGRAMME AIMED AT REVITALISATION OF CLUB RUGBY
The Irish Rugby Football Union and AIB today announced a new five year partnership agreement as they launched the IRFU Community Rugby Programme.
The programme includes a series of rugby competitions and club development support initiatives designed to rejuvenate and reposition club rugby as a focal point in their community, helping clubs find relevance in their community.
This is intended to help nurture the club game with AIB, the community bank, acting as the IRFU's strategic partner in delivering this programme.
Commenting on the launch of the Community Rugby Programme, Andy Crawford, President of the IRFU, said: "Through our partnership with AIB, this year has been designated as the Year of the Club by the IRFU. It is our determination to continue to work with the clubs to maintain the development of the club game in recognition of its importance to rugby in Ireland."
Maurice Crowley, AIB's General Manager, said: "I believe that everybody who supports rugby in Ireland is aware of AIB's grassroots strategy with regard to club rugby. As such it also compliments our other sport sponsorships. This announcement today displays our ongoing commitment to the efforts of the IRFU to revitalise the game at a local level. We will continue to strive to develop club rugby into a vibrant, thriving community game."
Philip Browne, Chief Executive of the IRFU, added: "The playing field for the club game has changed a great deal in a relatively short time. The IRFU Community Rugby Programme is aimed at both refreshing the competitive structures for the clubs and aiding them on a local level.
"The backbone of any rugby club is the community and by working with them at this level and providing them with the necessary assistance, we want to develop the clubs as a more community focused entity."
The first level of partnership will see the continued sponsorship of the AIB League, which has been sponsored by AIB for the last eight seasons. As part of this, there will be a new structure for the AIB League for the 2005/06 season, with 16 clubs contesting each championship. As well as promotion and relegation across all three Divisions, each of the semi-final winners will be playing for their respective Divisional titles on the AIB League finals day.
This new structure is the result of full consultation between the IRFU and the clubs and is also in line with the Domestic Rugby Competition Strategy as outlined in the Union's Strategic Plan. In addition to this, a new AIB Senior and Junior Cup competition will be initiated with representatives from all four provinces being put forward for participation, culminating in a Cup final in April.
The club game will also be given an international platform on which to perform with Ireland playing a Club International of which the selected team will consist purely of club players. The international fixture will be played against a similar Scotland selection at Donnybrook on Friday, March 10, on the same weekend as Ireland's home game in the RBS 6 Nations Championship, as part of the weekend international programme of matches.
This game gives non-contracted club players the opportunity to win representative honours for Ireland and will showcase the club game at the highest possible level.
On an administrative level, the IRFU has recently appointed Kevin Potts as Domestic Game Manager. He will be responsible for the planning, development and organisation of the game within clubs and schools throughout Ireland. The Domestic Rugby Manager will report directly to the IRFU Director of Rugby and also sit on the Domestic Game Committee. The role will ensure a focus on the club and schools game at grassroots level to maintain its development.
In addition to this appointment, each province will have their own dedicated AIB Club Development Manager to ensure direct contact and assistance at a community level. The IRFU and AIB will also be rolling out several support initiatives to the clubs throughout this season and beyond to enable the clubs to allow them to work more closely with the IRFU in terms of club development.