Castlebar businessman Jimmy Staunton has been appointed head of a new structure for the professional game of rugby in Connaught with the specific aim of elevating the levels of performance for the province both on and off the field of play. He will serve as chairman of the independent Professional Game Board (PGB) to oversee all aspects of the professional sport in the region. A commitment has been secured from Leinster, Munster and
Ulster to allow more movement of selected players to Connaught
The board will be responsibility for all activities associated with the running of the professional game in the province for the next three years.
He stated: "I am deeply honoured to be appointed to the role. The board consists of a wealth of knowledge and experience and to be a part of that, driving Connaught Rugby forward, is a huge privilege.
"We are all aware of the challenges we are facing but with the passion and dedication of my fellow board members, I am confident we can overcome any obstacles we may come across.
"The new structures in place at Connacht rugby will make certain there is a viable and sustainable future for professional rugby in the province and with appropriate support, ensure a fair and equitable footing on the Irish rugby ladder."
Mr. Staunton is joined on the board by a blend of experience from both the business and sports worlds.
They include Pat O'Connor, Swinford, a former president of the Law Society of Ireland, Conor McGuinness, former Connacht player and international scrumhalf, Steve Cunningham, business consultant and former Connaught Branch president, and
Simon Heaslip, Galway businessman and entrepreneur
The board is independent of the Connaught Branch and IRFU but is accountable to the IRFU Management Committee.
The Connaught PGB, whose activities will also include generating additional commercial revenues, will have the responsibility to prepare the budget annually for agreement and approval by the IRFU.
A significant element of the new structure is that the Leinster, Ulster and Munster branches have each provided a firm commitment to the initiative which will involve movement of selected players from those provinces to Connaught.
This will allow Connaught to benefit from the playing talent from the other provincial academies and teams to develop the strength of Ireland qualified players throughout all of the four provinces.
Additional support in the coaching and management assets of the Connacht Team will be provided to ensure increased competitiveness.
Gerry Kelly, the chief executive of Connaught Rugby, said: "This new development represents a shot in the arm for professional rugby in Connacht.
"It is an endorsement by the IRFU that Connacht is a core element of the Irish rugby family and, under the direction of the new professional game board and with the commitment of support from the other provinces, we believe that a bright and sustainable future is in store for professional rugby in the west."
Ireland coach Declan Kidney said he always believed the Ireland team can only become stronger with four competitive provincial teams.
"Competition for places and in particular in a number of key positions has been something that we have been trying to develop with the Ireland team over the last 18 months.
"The new developments in Connacht can only add to this as game time is essential for the development of players."
A review is to be undertaken by the new Connacht PGB on current management, coaching structures and personnel with specific recommendations for any further structure to be discussed with and agreed by the IRFU.
Specialist sports consultancy ASMT have been appointed to conduct an evaluation of the sport in the region.