Boom time for corporate hospitality as Leinster bounce back from recession

Victorious: The Leinster team in high spirits after beating Parisian side Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup final in Bilbao in May. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Victorious: The Leinster team in high spirits after beating Parisian side Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup final in Bilbao in May. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sales of corporate hospitality tickets at Leinster Rugby are back to their best levels, according to the club’s chief executive Mick Dawson.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Dawson said that revenues from corporate hospitality had suffered during the recession.

However, he added, they had now made a full recovery.

“When you go to the Aviva stadium now, it’s a great barometer for corporate boxes,” said Mr Dawson. “People will take corporate boxes now. It’s not a dirty word any more. I think that the economy in Dublin has recovered in that regard.”

Despite the hardship that Ireland experienced during the recession between 2008 and 2013, sales of the club’s season tickets did not suffer.

During that period, Leinster won three European Cups – in 2009, 2011, and 2012 – and the European Challenge Cup in 2013.

“We were very lucky that during the recession our team was the most successful it has ever been,” said Mr Dawson, who joined Leinster from Davy Stockbrokers in 2001. “The recession in terms of season ticket sales never affected us.”

Mr Dawson said that the recently approved expansion of the RDS stadium – Leinster’s home ground – is “hugely important”.

“The RDS has been very progressive on this. It has planning permission and it, in conjunction with ourselves, is working very hard on this.

“There is a new Government fund for major sports capital projects.

“We are waiting for the news as to when the applications are to be in. We are optimistic ourselves, and the RDS is optimistic that it will get some money. If that happens I think the RDS can go ahead more or less immediately.”

The estimated cost of the redevelopment, which will see the Anglesea stand increase its capacity to 6,481 patrons from its current capacity of 5,743, is €26m.

The good news for the club and the RDS is that the extra capacity will mean an increase in the €24.7m a season spent by Leinster followers.

Mr Dawson said: “If the RDS gets the go-ahead for the new stand, it will create nearly 2,500 extra tickets throughout the stadium, which will be a big changer for us and it will also help with hospitality, bars and all that.”

Another key revenue spinner for the club is sponsorship, and Mr Dawson acknowledges the importance of having a good working relationship with sponsors.

Brand ambassadors play a big role here, something that Mr Dawson, himself a former hooker for and captain of Lansdowne FC, says that the older players in particular understand.

“I think the older players get it, they kind of grow into it and they understand what the club is about,” he said.

“When the younger guys are in the academy you try to instil values in them in relation to their responsibilities professionally and community-wise, and commercially.”

Player wage inflation has become an increasingly topical issue in the sport as European clubs compete for the best talent in the game.

Mr Dawson says that Leinster have been lucky in that the club’s income has managed to keep pace.

He also cites the tax rebate in Ireland as being helpful in keeping large numbers of players here.

“It’s not an Irish problem, it’s an international problem and if you don’t match it, players naturally have a very short career, and they will look at opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

“Obviously the tax rebate is helpful to keep players in Ireland. But it is a big issue and it just can’t go on at the current level.”

Over the last number of years much has been made of the success of private schools, particularly in Dublin, in producing rugby talent.

Twenty-six of the 37 Leinster players who played in their winning Champions Cup campaign last season attended 11 private rugby-playing schools across Co Dublin, Co Kildare and Co Wicklow.

But Mr Dawson is keen to point out that they want their appeal to extend beyond that.

He said: “It is a club based in Dublin, but we are very conscious of the fact that there are 12 counties in Leinster and we want to remain relevant to all of those people.”

In an effort to boost its presence outside the capital, the club have made a practice of holding training sessions around the province.

Mr Dawson said: “You are trying to communicate with as many people as possible, and you hope that people from outside of Dublin will identify with the team and make the effort to be at the sessions.”

Irish Independent

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