Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam bid should be in Croke Park this weekend.
That is according to Irish Independent columnist Martin Breheny who believes playing big matches in the GAA stadium could see a big jump in revenue.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he admitted that it is not possible or feasible to move Saturday’s match at this stage – but called on the IRFU to consider the option in future years.
“There is huge interest in Irish rugby and there has been for many years,” he said.
“That was highlighted, as we know, between 2007 and 2010, when they were playing all the games in Croke Park, with sell-outs on all occasions.
He noted that Croke Park has an 82,300 capacity, while the Aviva Stadium holds just 51,700.
“There is a 30,600 differential there for all of those games,” he said.
“If you take, for instance, the England and France games in particular, you would probably sell out 100,000 tickets if you had a stadium of that size.
“Why is it that we are not playing those major games [in Croke Park] – allowing 30,000 more people to attend them?”
He admitted that Aviva has paid big money for the naming rights at Lansdowne Road and would feel hard done by if the biggest games were not played there – but insisted a deal could be done.
“Deals don’t make themselves and there is absolutely no reason why there couldn’t be a stipulation inserted that in certain circumstances - and I would put the England and France games top of the list - that if the occasions demanded, they would be played in Croke Park.”
He said any drop in income from the naming rights deal would be more than compensated for the increase in ticket sales.
“With the difference between the capacity of Croke Park and the capacity of Lansdowne Road, they would actually earn about €2.5 million extra in gate receipts,” he said.
“That is not a made-up number either; it is pretty clear.
“You have 18,500 extra seats, so you sell those at €100 a shot. Then you have another 13,000 on Hill 16 - say €50 each - and you are up at €2.5 million in extra gate receipts for a game in Croke Park as opposed to Lansdowne Road.”
He said the IRFU would also have to pay rent money to Croke Park – something he estimated at around €500,000.
“There is a clear logic in it here and the problem is, it is yet another example where we keep telling people we are sport mad country yet when a major event comes our way, we can’t make the experience available to as many people as possible,” he said.
“As of next Saturday evening at 5pm, the only life within Croke Park will the pigeons bedding down for the night and three miles away 51,000 people will be watching the game live when in fact 30,600 more could be in Croke Park.
“There is a clear logic to it and I would hope perhaps that next time the naming rights come up, perhaps that would be looked at.”
The Ireland-France match kicks off at 5pm on Saturday.
Main image shows Ireland's Paul O'Connell wining possession in the lineout against England at Croke Park,24-02-2007. Image: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE