Message from Stephen Hilditch, President of IRFU   19/08/2016

Message from Stephen Hilditch, President, Irish Rugby Football Union, to Old Belvedere RFC.

Many congratulations to Willie Norse on his election as President of Old Belvedere RFC for season 2016-’17.

It is my hope that he and all members of the club derive every enjoyment and success from your busy activities at all levels and that your 1st XV, as proud former title winners, continue to make a telling impact in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge former IRFU President Barry Keogh and also Ben Gormley, now retired from the IRFU Committee.

For this season’s 27th staging of the Ulster Bank League, the IRFU advise clubs of some new initiatives, having considered feedback from senior clubs and responses to a player survey. Following its successful introduction last season, the remodeled structure of five divisions of 10 teams, playing home and away, culminating in promotional and relegation play-offs; will remain in place until at least the end of the 2017-‘18 season. Furthermore, so as to enhance the intensity of games in Division 1A and 1B, the number of fully contracted players in the match day panel may increase to a maximum of four, of which two can be forwards, and there will continue to be no restrictions on Development and Academy player participation..

These decisions are introduced in line with the Union’s desire to further develop the status and attractiveness of Ireland’s premier inter-club championship. Bear in mind that it is our collective determination that our club game endures as the bedrock of Irish rugby. Naturally, the professional game is the shop window, but your Union Committee is steadfast in its resolve that the grassroots will always be the spine.

To that end the IRFU has allocated a further €1.2 million Euros to the domestic game for the 2016-’17 season. This brings the total investment in grassroots rugby to over €10 million Euros, representing a 23% increase in the domestic game budget since 2015.

In a further boost for clubs, the Union is delighted that again this season it will put in place the popular Your Club Your Country Grand Draw, in association with Ulster Bank. Last season the programme raised €580,000 Euros for the 137 clubs who participated, bringing to over €3 million Euros the amount raised by clubs across the Island.

On behalf of the IRFU, I also warmly acknowledge Ulster Bank for their greatly appreciated partnership in the IRFU’s Community rugby programme. Its wide and popular activities, of which the Ulster Bank League is a key element, also includes sponsorship of the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup; the Irish Club international team; the Ulster Bank League Awards, plus the Ulster Bank RugbyForce initiative, the Community volunteer project which helps rugby clubs to improve their facilities.

Meantime, best wishes to all at Anglesea Road.

Stephen Hilditch

President – Irish Rugby Football Union


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