10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The plans include upgrading Limerick's Thomond Park into a 26,000 capacity stadium, a new 6,500 capacity stand in Musgrave Park in Cork and the provision of additional playing and training facilities to develop age grade rugby in the province. A major fundraising drive was also unveiled by the Munster Branch to fund the redevelopments. A tax based scheme is at the centre of the fund raising drive, which operates under the Sports Capital Tax legislation.
The plans devised by the development sub committee of the Munster Branch will see a significant improvement in both player and spectator facilities across the province. In addition to the development of Thomond and Musgrave Park the committee are negotiating the purchase of a 10 acre site in Limerick City specifically for club and age grade rugby. Dressing room and storage facilities will also be built at the Cois Laoi facility in Cork for use by clubs and the Munster professional team.
Speaking at the announcement of the plan Branch President, Niall O'Driscoll stated our ability to develop the game further will depend on us providing the appropriate structures and facilities for players at all levels, from age grade through to the professional team. The development of Thomond and Musgrave Park will also allow us provide the capacity required to accommodate the increasing number of supporters who want to share in the unique Munster Rugby experience'. He noted we are acutely aware of the tradition of Thomond Park but we need to bring the ground up to a level that reflects Munster's standing in the world game.' O'Driscoll added the expansion of Thomond Park will ensure supporters would have greater access tickets for all Munster's crucial home games'.
Explaining the workings of the Sports Capital tax scheme O'Driscoll outlined Individuals can make donations of 250 upwards to the scheme and depending on the tax bracket they are on, the revenue will also make a contribution. Local businesses benefit from treating corporate donations as a deductible trading expense.' He added that additional funding will include private investors, National Lottery funding and other sources.
Garrett Fitzgerald, CEO Munster Rugby outlined that the redevelopments are vital to the continued growth of Munster Rugby. He stated the success of our professional team in addition to the surge in age grade rugby as a result of great work by our youth development officers places more pressure on existing facilities. We currently have 19,000 age grade players in the province. The development sub committee's plans will allow us build on this phenomenal level of interest in the game.' In reference to the pressure on tickets for crucial ERC games he noted that the capacity of Thomond Park at 13,300, restricts their commercial ambitions where selling season tickets for all Celtic League and ERC games would be a commercial priority. Fitzgerald made the comparison to the English Zurich Premiership where such practices are commonplace. He noted that in their current state neither Thomand or Musgrave Park would be allowed host Zurich Premiership games.
The fund raising tax scheme has a target of 10 million. The development sub committee hope to submit planning applications in early 2005.