JUST because Munster CEO Ian Flanagan has worked outside the country up to now, don’t think he doesn’t understand the Munster culture.
Having been reared in Ballyphehane, a stone’s throw from Musgrave Park he remembers running on to the pitch to get an autograph from Tony Ward. The Reds supremo says it’s the only job he would have returned to Ireland for, having enjoyed notable success with Leicester City.
He returned to his native city to take up a job that was left in the best possible state by his predecessor the late Garrett Fitzgerald.
“I’ve never worked in Ireland, I left when I was a student, I spent my entire career working outside of Ireland and Munster is pretty much the only job I would have returned home to do.
“It’s an iconic club, everyone knows how special it is. I grew up around the corner from Musgrave Park, I ran on the park as a kid to get Tony Ward’s autograph so nobody understands more than I do how special Munster is and it’s a huge honour and a huge privilege and a huge responsibility following on from Garrett Fitzgerald.
“Obviously, before we had the pandemic, Garrett’s sad passing in February overshadowed the season hugely for us, he was Mr Munster. It’s a testament to everything he achieved that I’ve inherited a club in such good shape and I fully feel the responsibility of living up to everything Garrett did but also that is a hugely exciting opportunity to ensure that whatever comes down to the track in terms of calendar change or any development to our tournaments and so on.”
Flanagan has had to hit the ground running this season due to the pandemic. On the pitch, he is still dealing with a large amount of uncertainty until definite dates for inter-pro games are announced and if the suggested dates are used, that will put a heavy toll on players’ bodies.
“We are all dealing with a degree of uncertainty. We have dates in the calendar for the inter-pro games in August. There is the semi-final and final of the PRO14 pencilled in for September and we hope to be involved in those.
“Then next season starts October 3. We have a schedule, we don’t have any more detail other than that. We don’t have any draft fixture list or anything like that.
“Obviously Ireland expect to be playing the two outstanding Sin Nations fixtures and we are working on the basis that the November internationals will go ahead as planned. So yes, there will be a lot of rugby being played. We’ll make decisions and we’ll plan accordingly when we know what the fixture list looks like for real because at the moment we are dealing with a degree of imponderables and unknowns.
“It may mean that we need to dip deeper into the squad, obviously if more players are away on international duty or playing more international games, or if we pick up more injuries than we would expect to pick up.
“It is something we are aware of as a potential issue for us and we are planning for that eventuality.”
Off the pitch the situation is equally tough with the likely destination of €40m that the Irish government will be giving the governing body, the IRFU, still undecided.
The Munster CEO says that the pandemic will put pressure on Reds’ finances given that nearly half their income comes from matchday activities and ticket sales so naming rights for Thomond Park is still on the table he says.
“Look, it’s undeniably going to be a tough commercial marketplace out there for now.
“I don’t think any company has been unaffected by this so naming rights to Thomond Park is one of the things on the table. It’s something we’re exploring at the moment.
“We have a new head of commercial and marketing in situ since the start of this year and we’re actively investigating it but there’s nothing to report in that space yet.
“There are probably two or three relatively serious conversations underway. They have largely been put on pause. We’ll pick them up when it’s the right time to do that. Obviously, in a process like this there is commercial sensitivity,” said the Munster CEO.