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IRFU's Browne delivers his dour warning again


GLOOMY: Philip Browne. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

GLOOMY: Philip Browne. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

GLOOMY: Philip Browne. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has doubled down on his stark warning for Irish rugby, if the sport is not given the go-ahead to resume in the coming months.

The IRFU are currently working off a return-to-play date on the weekend of August 22 with a series of PRO14 matches slated to take place.

It has already been confirmed that the union faces a loss of €15-20m if the Six Nations and November internationals are not played this year.

Salary deferrals have been in place since Covid-19 brought rugby to a standstill, and Browne has now admitted that pay cuts are inevitable if rugby faces further disruptions this year.

"With the agreement of the players, we have a salary deferral scheme in place, so we're in the second month of that," Browne told Off The Ball's 'State of the Union' podcast.

"We cannot simply build up a set of deferred salary liabilities, potentially in the knowledge that we're not going to be able to pay them.

"Ultimately if we have to cut wages, we have to cut wages, if that's what's going to help us get to the other end in one piece, and unpalatable as it is, we wouldn't be the only organisation in the country who is having to face up to these issues."

Speaking last week, Browne warned of the potential "catastrophic" impact of the pandemic, with the IRFU chief warning that "without Government support, sport will take a generation to get back on its feet."

The Irish provinces are hoping to begin pre-season programmes over the coming weeks ahead of a potential return to action on August 22 with inter-pro clashes at the Aviva Stadium behind closed doors.

"It's easy to switch it all off," Browne added. "It's much harder to switch it back on again. If you lose an NGB (national governing body) or if you start losing clubs, at that stage it becomes very difficult to put it all back together again.

"Professional sport is a marginal business. We don't bank huge reserves. We spend the money we earn in terms of keeping four professional teams going, keeping the national team going, the women's team going, the sevens team going and also supporting the amateur club game to the tune of about €10-11 million a year.

"We are a not for profit organisation. The reality is that the cash is limited.

"Yes, you could go off and borrow, but nobody should get engaged in borrowing funds unless they have some idea as to how they are going to repay them and at this point in time, I have no idea how we would repay any debt we took on."