Home games away

With the start of the new rugby season a couple of days away and the anthems at Ravenhill debate being the major rugby talking point, another story slipped under the radar.

For the second time in a few months, an Irish province raised the issue that they will play home matches outside Ireland for the next two seasons if they qualify for the later stages of the Heineken European Cup.

Current European champions [url=http://tinyurl.com/n4r3z]Munster has announced[/url] that they are looking at grounds in Cardiff, Manchester or London (registration required). Leinster and Ulster will be in a similar position.

Lansdowne Road is scheduled for redevelopment at the end of this year meaning at least 2 years with no rugby venue in Ireland capable of hosting a 25,000+ crowd. All European Quarter finals in recent years have exceeded 30,000 and the competition organisers have a minimum requirement of 25,000 for semi-finals.

Advance warning for supporters to start saving for a possible trip overseas? Or the first step in lobbying the GAA to use one of their stadia for provincial as well as international games – and if not for this season, the season after?

  • Keith M

    It’s shameful that Munster have to do this while perfectly good GGA stadia sit idle in Limerick and Cork.

  • dantheman

    Keith M,

    Unlike soccer and Rugby, the GAA make good use of their money and must be one of the most efficient sporting organisations in the world. Do you think that the GAA have some responsibility to the other associations??

  • eranu

    if ravenhill is too small at the minute, could ulster matches be played in casement park? what size is it?

  • Dec

    Keith

    Shameful is pretty strong. Hopefully a solution can be found that is in everyones interests and also increases Munster’s chances of retaining the cup. As an aside, I might remind you that Rugby Union has not always been the most magnaminous of associations in regards to its attitude towards those sports it regarded as its ‘competitors’.

  • nmc

    Eranu

    30k fit in there apparantly. That would be fantastic, I’d love to see it.

  • Michael Robinson

    “Do you think that the GAA have some responsibility to the other associations?”

    No, but ground share arrangements are very common elsewhere when it works to the mutual benefit of both sporting codes – why have an asset sitting doing nothing when it can bring in some money?

    Ospreys/Swansea, London Irish/Reading, Saracens/Watford, Wasps/Wycombe, Harlequins RU/RL, Sale/Stockport, Leeds RU/Rhinos are some examples of Rugby/Football and Rugby Union/League ground share arrangements.

    Do these sports see each other as competitors? Maybe – but it doesn’t stop ground shares. ANd even the “competitor” point is arguable as fansof the different codes will tend to come from different demographics.

  • Keith M

    dantheman “Unlike soccer and Rugby, the GAA make good use of their money and must be one of the most efficient sporting organisations in the world.”

    If you don’t pay your players of course you’ll be economically more efficient. You can get away with that in a sport with only local appeal where players cannot ply their trade abroad (although I hear of some going as far away as Australia to earn some money). In internationally popular sports like rugby and football, such an option is not available.

    “Do you think that the GAA have some responsibility to the other associations??”

    I believe that as recipiants of (a lot of) taxpayers money, they are morally bound to provide a public service where appropriate.

  • dantheman

    “I believe that as recipiants of (a lot of) taxpayers money, they are morally bound to provide a public service where appropriate.”

    They do provide a public service, they offer people the length and breadth of ireland the opportunity to get involved in their local communities in a healthy manner. Better that than being morally obliged to help Munster or Ireland make a few bob. Where the matches staged profit-free, then I would agree that it were a public service.

    “If you don’t pay your players of course you’ll be economically more efficient.”

    Are you actually slating the fact that people wish to play sport for any higher motive other than money?? I don’t feel the GAA need to pay their players or that the amatuer status is a bad thing. It is precisely the opposite.

    “Such an option is not available”

    I see you point re: the international status of the other sports, but that is not the GAA’s problem. It does not really pretend to be an international game outside the diaspora and this does not detract from the fact that at a county and national level it is generally a very effficiently run organisation.

  • Michael Robinson

    dantheman “Unlike soccer and Rugby, the GAA make good use of their money and must be one of the most efficient sporting organisations in the world.”

    It can’t be that efficient to have assets like stadia sitting empty when they could be generating some money for the association!

  • GAA

    The garrison games, soccer in particular (don’t call it football as there are many brands of football/footy), must go begging to the GAA. The meek have inherited the earth. Although the minnow game of rugby have some validity, the criminals (think Shelbourne FC) of soccer have no case.

    When Jack Charlton started complaining that Landsdowne was in bad nick for a soccer international, Tony Ward pointed out that it is a rugby, not a soccer pitch. The same applies to GAA pitches. They are for Irish people, not for sticky fingered West Brits. Where are the books for the FAI/IFA? Where did all the money go? Ferrying cronies and their mistresses to internationals, giving jobs to cronies etc etc.

    The GAA planned in advance under the Quinn brothers and they are now top dog. If they throw Munster or other beggars a few crumb, ok. But these purveyors of foreign games must realise that thye are in the country under suffrance. Ireland is GAA country.

  • eranu

    nmc, sounds the perfect size. theres no obligation for the GAA to let anyone use their property, but if it doesnt conflict with any GAA games i cant see any sane reason not to have ulster rugby matches there. we’ll have to see what happens..

  • dantheman

    “The garrison games, soccer in particular (don’t call it football as there are many brands of football/footy), must go begging to the GAA. The meek have inherited the earth. Although the minnow game of rugby have some validity, the criminals (think Shelbourne FC) of soccer have no case.

    When Jack Charlton started complaining that Landsdowne was in bad nick for a soccer international, Tony Ward pointed out that it is a rugby, not a soccer pitch. The same applies to GAA pitches. They are for Irish people, not for sticky fingered West Brits. Where are the books for the FAI/IFA? Where did all the money go? Ferrying cronies and their mistresses to internationals, giving jobs to cronies etc etc.

    The GAA planned in advance under the Quinn brothers and they are now top dog. If they throw Munster or other beggars a few crumb, ok. But these purveyors of foreign games must realise that thye are in the country under suffrance. Ireland is GAA country.”

    I am surprised you didnt include the phrase “perfidious albion”!

    “It can’t be that efficient to have assets like stadia sitting empty when they could be generating some money for the association!”

    Its not sitting empty, they are used every day of the week to stage terrorist rallies. Have you not seen the UPMJ website??

  • dantheman

    I think there is an issue with a lot of GAA grounds as to the standard of seating. I doubt that most of them woulc be up to UEFA standards, Casement park included. I am not so sure as to the criteria for rugby.

  • Dr Strangelove

    It would be interesting to see the crowds Ulster would get if they played at Casement. It might entice the locals, who would never go to Ravenhill to watch a match, to pop along and get a taster for the game.

    The location however might also put of some of the more traditional Ulster rugby fans.

  • Michael Robinson

    “The location however might also put of some of the more traditional Ulster rugby fans.”

    Quite the opposite I think! I’m planning to see Ulster play in Newport, S Wales in a couple of weeks so Casement Park holds no fears… 😉

  • eranu

    i wish people in NI would get over this their territory / our territory stuff. its 2006, not caveman times! if you want to watch a sporting event in belfast just go and watch it. in a normal city people travel all over it to various events. start doing this and stop thinking that you have to stay in your ‘quarter’ of the city.
    go on, give it a go !!

  • Dantheman

    Tony Ward was stating a fact – that the way you prepare a ground for rugby is not the same as soccer. I don’t recall dog-in-the-manger being an issue. Obviously the rugby crowd would have to accept whatever ground conditions are deemed to support football and hurling.

    It’s a pity the GAA can’t just rise above, take the garrison money (nobody said it should be free) and make the rugby crowd envious. That money could go straight into making Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Fitzgerald Stadium and the Gaelic Grounds (or even, whisper it, Semple) into smaller equivalents of Croke Park in terms of facilities, and pay off the cost of work already done.

    At least Munster province has four decent sized GAA facilities – what has Leinster got outside Dublin?

    If the GAA would prefer money to leave Ireland and go to England or Scotland or Wales I think that’s quite sad.

  • nmc

    Is there not a possibility that some Ulster fans who wouldn’t normally go near Casement, would love the chance to get up there and get a quick look? I remember years ago doing work (cleaning bird s*** off the seats with a power washer) in Crusader’s home ground, I loved it.

    I think Casement would be a great location, and it would be an opportunity for the locals to display some of that avowed “anti-sectarianism”, and to get a chance to see how exciting a good game of rugby can be.

  • Martin

    I have to say I sit incredulous that, in 2006, someone can still use the phrase “garrison games” and suggest that other sports exist “under suffrance” in Ireland. Valid points elsewhere on this thread regarding the administration of those games and the allocation of their resources aside, that sort of attitude to simple pastimes is just beyond words. Do you think the French should ban all games except pentanque and the Scots stick purely to caber tossing and golf? Incredible…

  • Michael Robinson

    Pitch preparation with ground sharing is not a difficult issue to solve – I listed half a dozen or so grounds in England that are shared between football and rugby and both sports are frequently played on the same weekend.

  • dantheman

    MD

    I was addressing Keith M’s silly argument that because public money had been given to the GAA, just as soccer and rugby receive money, that they “ought to” hand over the ground for certain games to suit the other organisations. My point would be why soccer and rugby had not been able to develop similar facilities to that of GAA. The simple answer to this would be that GAA is more popular, and in essence has more support of the irish people.

    There seems to be a hint of jealousy in this typical GAA bashing. I am a fan of soccer, rugby and GAA and I am surprised that the one of these three sports which has organised itself the best gets the most stick. The GAA exists primarily due to the voluntary contributions of their time and money by a very large proportuion of the Irish people. It has done and continues to do an enormous amount to get people involved in the community and keeping young people fit and healthy. Compare the participation rates of sport in Scotland and Ireland, two similar sized and populated areas with similar culture.

    I personally would like to see these matches played in Ireland, and am looking forward to the matches next year in Croker. But there is no moral imperative on the GAA to do anything about the current situation.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Keith M

    (I’m trying not to play the man here.)

    What would you make of the suggestion that spiteful attacks on the GAA, such as yours, are wholly destructive to debates such as these?

    I mean, here we have a situation where the GAA holds all the assets, and you think that the way to get them to share is by hurling insults and bile?

    Michael Robinson, for example, is approaching this issue in a sensible way. Clearly he’s a sportsman and he’s approaching the issue from a sporting perspective. That’s the way to skin this particular cat.

    Approaches like yours, on the other hand, are manna from heaven for GAA traditionalists. The visceral anti-GAA bigotry that dominates the mainstream Dublin media held back changes to Rule 42 for several years – many grassroots GAA volunteers just took the attitude of “well sod ye then” – and ugly attacks like yours have the same effect.

    But perhaps you don’t really give two hoots about where the rugby is played at all? Perhaps this thread, to you, is an opportunity to vent your spleen against an association towards which you are deformed with hatred, and nothing more?

  • eranu

    “I personally would like to see these matches played in Ireland, and am looking forward to the matches next year in Croker. But there is no moral imperative on the GAA to do anything about the current situation.”

    come on dantheman. if you want the games to stay in ireland, dont you think it would be the descent thing to show a bit of kindness and generosity and share your facilities with fellow sportsmen? thats all the issue is. be nice!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Eranu

    “If you want the games to stay in ireland, dont you think it would be the descent thing to show a bit of kindness and generosity and share your facilities with fellow sportsmen? thats all the issue is. be nice!”

    Thing is, no-one is asking. Neither Leinster nor Munster Rugby has made any request to the GAA. With Croker opened up, it might be a possibility that games could be played there?

    Also, if I were a rugby fan hoping to see Munster play at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick or Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, I would hope that the media would shut up about the issue – nothing surer to scupper the chances than the usual media suspects hurling insults and getting everybody’s back up.

    And lastly, I’d say it’d be important that they would ask nicely! I remember the story last year where Munster Rugby started talking about playing games at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney (capacity 38,000 with seating for 10,000) – they argued that the stadium was not actually owned by the GAA but by Kerry County Council and that they should therefore be allowed to use it whenever they wanted. I think there might even have been specific fixtures mentioned.

    Trouble was, Munster Rugby were misinformed. Then GAA President (and Kerryman) Sean Kelly was quick to put the record straight – Fitzgerald Stadium is owned 100% by the GAA. He also quite rightly expressed his anger at what he saw as a stroke Munster Rugby had been trying to pull.

    So perhaps Munster Rugby has already cut its own throat?

    Which is a pity – I’d be in favour of using provincial grounds for rugby. Munster is best equipped, with the Gaelic Grounds Limerick (48,000), Pairc Ui Chaoimh Cork (45,000), Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney (38,000) and Semple Stadium Thurles (51,000).

    As for Leinster – wouldn’t Dalymount Park be an option for them? Not exactly glamorous I know, but it would hold a good 15,000 anyway, wouldn’t it?

    And Ulster? Casement would be great – 32,000 up in Andytown (though it’s right beside the motorway – the new floodlights show just how close it is to passing motorists). I always park at Stockman’s Lane and walk up. For any fearful rugby fans who’ve never been west of the motorway before – yes, it’s west Belfast, but only by a few hundred metres, so you don’t have to worry about ogres eating you or anything.

    Though of course the best stadium in Ulster is without question Breffni Park in Cavan. (Clones is biggest – 35,000 – but it’s a little-loved venue.) Breffni – capacity c. 30,000, 10,000-odd seats and a fantastic bowl-style layout. Atmosphere’s electric when it’s full.

    Though Cavan’s not exactly rugby country. A mere three hours from Belfast though….

  • eranu

    cheers for the info billy. hopefully a little niceness on both sides could sort out a simple problem.
    ive been down the M1 millions of times but i only realised where casement was after they put the lights in!

  • dantheman

    “thats all the issue is. be nice!”

    Eranu, I agree with you. But it was Keith the M who interpreted the fact that the GAA had developed superior facilities into an opportunity to have a go at them.

    I’d love to see Ulster play at Casment Park. I would have no objections. But as previously stated, the GAA hold all the cards due to past endeavours and attacking them is pathetic. Still bring it on!! My only issue, which hopefully we could sort out would be the standard of seating.

  • Michael Robinson

    Leinster’s comments last month about playing home games abroad can be found [url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2768-2310021,00.html]here[/url].

    Who knows if there are any hidden motives with these statements? (other than the IRFU branches themselves

    They could be floating the issue prior to a formal approach to the GAA or simply getting fans prepared that this may happen.

    Of course, this is all dependent on an Irish team reaching the quarter finals or semi-finals and getting a home draw – however this has happened in 8 out of the last 10 years.

  • nmc

    It would be a golden opportunity taken were the GAA to offer the use of their facilities. The good will generated by this is potentially huge, and would offer the chance for fans from the GAA to start enjoying Rugby, and for rugby fans from the other side of the divide to be in a GAA ground and (hopefully) enjoy the welcome and atmosphere. The positive knock on effects could be unimaginable.

    Pie in the sky stuff all the same.

  • blandy

    What about windsor park. Not the prettiest stadium but it should be able to handle a quarter final anyway.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Blandy

    “What about windsor park. Not the prettiest stadium but it should be able to handle a quarter final anyway.”

    Do you mean for Ulster? Or for Leinster and Munster too?

    What’s the capacity of Windsor – about 14k, is that correct? Would Ravenhill not be nearly that anyway? The only reason to move the game would be to accommodate a larger attendance – if Windsor is only the same size anyway, can’t see the rugby crowd being interested in moving from Ravers. If Windsor was substantially bigger, maybe, but other than that?

    But if, theoretically, Casement was open to them for, say, a big semi-final, under floodlights, with 32,000 paying punters instead of 14,000 – well, you can see why Ulster Rugby might be tempted by such a prospect, in a way they wouldn’t be by Windsor.

  • blandy

    IT is limited to 14k all seated with no temporary seating.

    I have heard talk of 20k including standing or temporary seating. (as bath demonstrates rugby authorities arent as paraniod about this)

    The pitch is the right size so binoculars would not be necessary.

    Certainly Ulster, whether leinster or munster would be arsed with the trek is another matter.

  • Southern Observer

    [i]The garrison games, soccer in particular (don’t call it football as there are many brands of football/footy), must go begging to the GAA…these purveyors of foreign games must realise that thye are in the country under suffrance. Ireland is GAA country.[/i]

    This is all a trifle blinkered ,GAA, and not completely accurate.Rugby has historic roots in Ireland,moreso than gaelic football which was a 19th century invention,and is probably a derivative of the ancient game of caid.
    I lifted the following from a recognised rugby website:

    [i]Origins of Rugby

    Many believe that rugby was born in 1823 when William Webb Ellis “with fine disregard for the rules of football (remember football was yet to split into the various codes) as played in his time at Rugby school, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game”. Although it is worth pointing out that this is apocryphal as there is little in the way of evidence to substantiate this view, it is however, the popular view. So much so in fact that the international committee named the Rugby world cup the “William Webb Ellis Trophy”.

    Webb Ellis’ father was stationed in Ireland with the Dragoons, where, it is said, he would have witnessed the native game of Caid (Cad), could he have passed this on to his son or was Willian’s act of running with the ball one of pure inspiration?

    All branches of the Celtic race played Caid. There were two basic forms, Cross-country cad and field cad.[/i]

    As a follower of all three sports I think the GAA should show the spirit of the ‘meitheal’.