An Open Letter To Munster Rugby
I’ve tried maintain my support for Munster for many months now despite the problems that clearly lie both on and off the pitch but I fear Saturday may have been the straw that finally broke the camels back.
As many of you may already know the RugbyLAD brand was founded in Limerick three years ago because of a love for rugby instilled in me my whole life by Munster Rugby and it’s fans. The home of rugby, the former European capital of sport. A bond has existed in Munster between it’s people and rugby for a very long time and that bond for the first time in it’s history is in risk of being broken.
Embarrassing, humiliating, disgraceful. That’s how Alan Quinlan put it yesterday and he couldn’t have said it better. Munster were not always a force to be reckoned with in Europe. Before the days of winning the Heineken Cup in 06 and 08, before the days of topping the European rankings, Munster were the underdogs. But Munster were spirited underdogs. European glory alluded them for many years, but you always had a sense of pride in their performance. You always had a sense that they were building, that they would come back the following game, the following month, the following season- better, stronger, wiser. That sense was always there that the club was almost constantly moving forward. Munster never took a step backward, the coaches, the executives, the players simply wouldn’t allow it. Munster would always learn from their mistakes. The current Munster set-up from executives to players to coaches are not learning from their mistakes. Week in, week out for the past number of months they have allowed themselves to crumble. The sense of pride, the confidence in ability, the tactics, the coaching- it’s on a downward spiral, showing no signs of improvement.
Before I begin to ramble and repeat myself, i’m going to break it down into several sections and explain to you what I think is wrong with the current set-up from the top. Many may agree, many may disagree and no one in Munster Rugby will probably take any notice of this, but i’d like to give my two cents on the situation.
The Handling of Media Obligations & Supporters
Munster’s slump both in form and attendance has been going on for quite some time now. It’s nothing sudden, so there’s no excuse. Yet Munster have yet to acknowledge it? Their Twitter feed and website is run like a corporation, not a club. Yes you are a business, but you are also a club. Businesses have customers, clubs have supporters. Know the difference, and take care of both of them. Customers want to know about Munster’s latest products. Supporters want to hear about their club. Supporters want reassurance. Give it to them. You cannot run a business without customers, the same way you cannot run a club without supporters. For Munster they are both equally as important, but they seem to have given second preference to the latter.
This is the only activity we have seen on the Munster Rugby Supporters Club Facebook page since the game for example. It looks like even they have given up.
Anthony Foley has been in front of a camera after an embarrassing defeat several times now. Not once has he given the fans some worthwhile answers. He completely avoids the tough questions, has not once but his hand up to say perhaps he got it wrong and ends up giving us the same old generic answers about next week, character, didn’t do enough etc. No shit Anthony. No shit Munster weren’t good enough. We’ve heard you say that last week, and the week before. What are you going to do about it we ask? Where do the problems lie? What do Munster need to work on. Credit to CJ Stander who is the man normally fed to the wolves so to speak when it comes to post-match interviews. Always honest, always looks heartbroken. Anthony Foley could learn a lot from the South African.
It’s been a long-time since we’ve seen a sold out Thomond Park. They claimed a sell-out against Leinster over the Christmas but anyone with an eye in their head would have seen it was a blatant lie. Fans have been pleading in the pubs, on the streets, on social media for prices to be lowered. I just did a quick search on ticketmaster. Two tickets to the Stade game on Saturday. East Terrace.
30 quid a pop for terrace tickets, in a dead end game that means nothing. A game that even the most die hard of Munster fans will find difficult to motivate themselves to go to. 30 quid, for a terrace ticket. It’s absolute madness. The Munster vs Treviso Champions Cup game was the lowest attended European game in the province’s history. This current set-up have made a bit of a name for themselves, breaking records for the wrong reasons. I wouldn’t bet against another record broken this weekend.
I don’t really have to say much here. Rob Penney, a man who left his family to travel halfway around the world to coach Munster was offered a pathetic one-year deal to stay on as coach. One year? Don’t insult the man. Not only that, but don’t let a proven coach go when you have absolutely no plan b. There’s not much needed in this section. It’s all been said already. The current set-up of coaches across the board needs to go. An entire fresh set-up needs to be installed. The one thing I will say here is that it has reached the point of no return. The boys were handed the keys to the mansion. They thrashed it. They don’t deserve a second chance. At this stage they owe it to the supporters, the club, the badge to put their hands up at the end of the season and say they’re in over their heads and resign from their positions. No one will think any less of them. We respect and appreciate what they have done for Munster as players, but coaches they are not.
Academy & Club System
The current state of the Academy and Club system is simply not good enough. A new director of talent needs to be brought in to reshape the entire system. I’m not the one who has the answers and I’m not going to make suggestions. I’m not qualified. I will however give my honest opinion. Things didn’t look too bad before the Munster A system came along and Munster players were able to play for their clubs when not in the first-team squad or making their return from injury. The club game that once existed in Munster was on a scale similar to the ITM Cup in New Zealand. Give us back our AIL. Give us back a passionate feeder and academy system. The current one is nothing short of pathetic.
This passage does not go out to all the players and I will not name names as I believe it to be disrespectful. The players know themselves. There were players on that pitch Saturday that showed no passion, no resolve, no pride. Missed kicks, missed tackles, forward passes, knock-ons. These are the basics. If you cannot get them right, then what hope is there? I don’t know if it’s a lack of confidence, a lack of respect, a lack of pride in the jersey. I can think of so many players over the years from schools, academy and AIL who didn’t quite make it. Who got so close. Who would give anything for once more chance to earn a Munster contract. Many of the current squad have been given that golden opportunity, but have taken it for granted. You owe it to the fans, your friends, your family and those who came up the ranks with you and didn’t quite make it. Take pride in the position you are in.
This is not about winning every game or winning the European cup. We know Munster are in a transitionary period. This is about the ethos of Munster Rugby. The current Munster set-up is like nothing any fan has experienced before and i’m pretty sure a lot of people will agree. It’s not just the results. There is an eery feeling surrounding Munster right now that just doesn’t feel right. Change is needed. Restructuring is needed. Win, lose or draw. Bring back the Munster we fell in love with.
– Jason Hennessy, Founder at RugbyLAD.com & Munster Rugby Supporter