The Six Nations has agreed a deal with private investment house CVC to take a 14.3 percent stake in the business.
The deal will be worth almost 56 million euro to the IRFU over the next 5 years. This development could increase the likelihood that the tournament goes behind a TV paywall. Something that is becoming increasingly common for the average sportsfan.
On Irish TV , 17 sporting events ranked among the top 50 most watched programmes last year. With all five of the six nation games placing high on the list. The France and Ireland on Virgin Media One brought in 850.3k, while Scotland game brought 635.8k , England 634.4k , Wales 605.2k and Italy 540.6k. How do they plan to migrate all these people to go behind a paywall?
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While we acknowledge the grave financial worries of the IRFU as highlighted by President Des Kavanagh when we spoke to him last October , we still wonder why is it the fans once again losing out. In 2019 we seen category 1 tickets for six nations game versus France and England rise to €115 when they were €105 in 2017 , €95 in 2015 and €90 in 2013. Does a 28% rise coincide with Irelands 1.6% inflation rate over that period? I think not.
Same with merchandise, an Irish home kit will only set you back a tidy €100. I believe prices like this are forcing people to get their merchandise or watch the games via other methods. Piracy and counterfeit jerseys have never been more popular and easily accessible. I’m not advocating that at all, I am simply stating a fact. Which is, if you charge too much for your product well then expect people who enjoy your product, to look for ways to get it cheaper.
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This is not just restricted to Rugby, it’s most abundant in world soccer and unfortunately coming into the GAA. With gate receipts and attendance falling in 2018 for the GAA, they decided to raise ticket prices in 2019? So charging the people who are remaining loyal, yeah that makes sense. All Ireland tickets were raised by €10 to €90 and league matches increased by a third, from €15 to €20 ( For the first time since 2011 it must be said). It might not seem much at the time, but a smoker says that after every 50 cent increase and suddenly they are paying €14 a day for a pack of Benson & Hedges.
The various sport subscription packages you need to watch every Premier League game is pretty expensive, everyone knows that, and that doesnt even take into account other competitions. It costs alot to be a fan of a team, let alone the sport however the tried PPV model for Premier League games earlier this season was horrendously tone deaf. I fear putting the six nations behind a similar paywall is the same thing.
I understand the money is desperately needed by the federation in the covid era, afterall 80% of their revenue is derived from the Six nations. I also understand the harsh reality that as fans, we are essentially consumers, and as consumers we buy the brand. I would just hate for the almost tribalism sport brings out of fans, especially at International and County level, to be lost to big business. As a Manchester United fan sometimes you feel you may aswell be supporting Mars Bar United.
Fan of rugby, well then why not check out our rugby podcast with our head of Sport Stephen Byrne and former leinster captain Chris Pimm. The new episode will be out this weekend, where they will be discussing this topic and more, but for now here is last weeks show.