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Thursday 21 September 2017

Eamon Carr: Eamon Ryan should keep his nose out of rugby

It's not often we get to be a judge for a day.

But any of us who've enjoyed watching courtroom dramas, from Rumpole Of The Bailey to The Good Wife, have just been presented with a case that requires our verdict in the court of public opinion.

When Green Party minister Eamon Ryan approached the bench and made a case for making high-profile rugby matches available for free on Irish television stations, he seemed to be making a case we could all agree with.

In these difficult times, a freebie can only be a good thing. No? If Minister Ryan and his cabinet get their way, we'll all be able to watch Heineken Cup games for free on an Irish station when an Irish team is playing. Some of us won't have to meet up in a mate's or go around to the local for a bit of craic.

Having made his case, Minister Ryan could have returned to his seat feeling satisfied that he'd played a wildly popular card. One that would allow us take our minds off the horrible mess the country's in and stop us poking fun at dithering politicians.

Then came the case for the defence.

Irish rugby wheeled out three heavy hitters to rubbish the minister's argument.

"The minister's proposals would destroy the sport and the very cultural events he believes he would be protecting," replied the chief executive of the IRFU, Philip Browne.

Such a move would take €12m out of the sport in Ireland, depriving the grassroots of funding, making it impossible to pay our top professionals, who would presumably have to move abroad to play, and, besides, the IRFU have been very successful in developing the professional game in Ireland since 1999 so it's wrong for the minister to interfere.

Six Nations executive John Feehan added that Ireland already receives over than four times more than it brings to the central pot and the minister's proposal would have "a detrimental effect on the sharing agreement between the Six Nations." Oops!

Derek McGrath, ERC chief executive, asks a simple question. Would the Irish public prefer to have the minister manage our involvement in this important competition?

Between them, these three advocates spoke on behalf of the Irish rugby nation, north and south.

"Minister Ryan seeks to change our business model without any thought of the consequences for our sport," declared Browne. "I just think that is absolutely cracked."

The case against the minister is compelling.

Irish rugby has been the envy of Europe for a number of years. For a small country in which rugby comes fourth in terms of popularity, Ireland has been playing a blinder in international rugby competitions.

That wouldn't be the case but for the successful infrastructure the IRFU have put in place.

The minister would be better advised turning his attention to something less contentious.

A plank of the Green Party's election campaign was an attempt to persuade us to grow our own vegetables.

Watch closely children. Minister Ryan is now making a stew.

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