Irish rugby suffers huge deficit as virus takes toll

Dublin (AFP) –


The Irish Rugby Football Union announced a 35.7-million-euro ($42 million) deficit for the 2019/20 season on Friday as chief executive Philip Browne warned of "drastic cuts" if fans cannot return soon.

Browne said the IRFU had had to provide loans to the four Irish provinces -- Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht -- to help cover player and staff wages, with the teams hit by a sharp drop in income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IRFU recorded its best-ever figures the previous year, with a surplus of more than 28 million euros.

Browne said was "no surprise" that Irish Rugby had experienced one of its worst financial years ever.

"Whilst the provinces and the IRFU are currently solvent, that ultimately is a time-limited situation," he wrote in the organisation's annual report.

"Unless there is a return to some level of normality within the next 12 months, with matches being played in front of some reasonable level of paying spectators, the IRFU and the provinces will have to drastically cut their budgets to ensure costs are covered by the lower revenues."