Let's Do It…..Connacht

John Killeen and company of Let's do it Galway set a benchmark in hosting global sporting events in the city. In less than two weeks, another sporting event - albeit a European one - will be held in the city. Connacht Rugby may be the fourth and poorest province in Ireland, but the occasion of hosting a European semi-final is one of which the city, county, and province should be proud.

It is a rare enough occasion when a European sporting event comes to the city. And given that the IRFU's preference was to stage this match in Dublin, the people at Connacht Rugby naturally enough want to see more community involvement to create an atmosphere that befits the city's image.

It doesn't need huge amounts of money, nor would it take a huge effort from Galway businesses - many of which will benefit - to get behind their provincial side. It is a pity the city council’s financial restraints prevent it from making some contribution - even if only to decorate its premises for the several thousand who will pass en route to the Sportsground. Flags and banners are a great way to help improve an atmosphere, and it is often believed that what is achieved off the pitch has a direct relationship with what happens on it.

Fáilte Ireland and Connacht Rugby sponsors Bank of Ireland and Elverys will hold a number of competitions, including one for the best window-dressing efforts in the city, while Iarnrod Eireann is putting on a special train service from Athlone - the first time for a Connacht match.

It is not just Connacht rugby that stands to benefit. Quantifying economic benefits is not an exact science, but Connacht's more illustrious counterparts in Munster, who have the financial clout to commission economic impact reports, reveal that the average spend of a visiting supporter is more than €500. The value of the media coverage for Limerick and its region was also very significant - creating a latent tourism spend effect of €12 million for the city based on the international match coverage across all media formats. It was estimated that the value of global media coverage for the city for the past season was €58 million.

Or course that is Munster, and this is Connacht, but it's what the province must strive for. Connacht Rugby has learned to help itself, and must continue to do so. Plans have been approved for improved facilities and a new stand, but the money currently remains unavailable from the IRFU. Meantime Connacht has committed to erecting extra seating for the occasion and a marquee for hospitality. However there should be greater collaboration between Connacht and its supporters - the need for a supporters’ club with official recognition.

Despite the threat of closure in the past and the lack of equality of funding, the province has acquitted itself well in all competitions and has excelled in the European Challenge Cup. It continues to fight an unfair and uphill political battle with the IRFU, but it should not be forced to face a similar fight to receive due recognition in its home town. Any act that shows supporters’ passion for the game and their team can be inspiring for the home side and daunting for the visitors. So Let's do it.. Connacht.

Linley MacKenzie



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