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Karl Boyle at Coliseum Europe 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Karl Boyle who looks into the development aspect of the provincial rugby team of Ireland – Connacht Rugby – exudes a lot of confidence as he tells how the entire planning process for redevelopment of the Connacht Rugby home ground – The Sportsground in Galway – went off without any hitches and “we hope to be on ground this Summer”.

Karl Boyle holds the post of Director of Development, Connacht Rugby, Ireland. He has been associated with Connacht Rugby since February 2015 and helms The Sportsground remodeling which is presently under way and promises to enhance the lives of people in West of Ireland which does not boast much in terms of economic development.

Karl Boyle tells in an exclusive conversation with ‘Coliseum’ as to how for Connacht Rugby getting permission to redecorate their home venue was almost a cakewalk from the word ‘go’ as they took the community along in every step of their project plans.
 

Connacht Rugby

The Connacht Rugby is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. Connacht competes in the United Rugby Championship and the European Rugby Champions Cup.
 

The Sportsground

The 8,129-capacity Sportsground, also known as The Galway Sportsgrounds and the Galway Greyhound Stadium and the Connacht Rugby Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Galway, Ireland. It opened in 1927 and has been used to host Connacht Rugby matches and greyhound racing since that time.

Connacht Rugby is taking its next steps as part of its ambitious Phase Two plans on total spruce-up of its home facility – The Sportsground. Phase I saw the installation of new LED floodlights.
 

Community First

The Connacht Rugby believes in taking the community along with it and as Karl Boyle asserted, “Our purpose as a club is to unite, inspire and represent our community.”

He averred that though The Sportsground repurposing project is not “massive yet it holds a lot of significance for us and holds the key to the Connacht Rugby future.”
 

Fall from Grace

An ever-confident person, Boyle asserted that Connacht Rugby aims to “become the best small club in the world in all respects”.

However, he pointed out that it is not a smooth ride as big clubs in England like the Worcester Warriors Rugby Football Club got disbanded on February 9th, 2023 and the Wasps Rugby Football Club who got suspended on October 12th, 2022 and soon after got relegated from the top-tier Premiership Rugby to the RFU Championship.

He added that hard times have befallen these clubs and there are a lot of challenges involved in “finding feet in professional sports”. Boyle was quick to add that today “Ireland sits on the top of the heap in World Rugby”.
 

The Way Forward

Boyle maintained that Connacht Rugby will have to rake in enough moolah to sustain in the future and should have its finger on the pulse as far as the market behavior is concerned. To keep the cash registers jingling, The Sportsground operators will have to keep fans engaged not just on matchdays but even on non-matchdays which would help drive revenue and premium facilities will have to be on offer.

He also explained that the redevelopment project of The Sportsground is “as much the community’s project as it is ours and we have to build on that relationship”.
 

The Team

Strong entities comprise the Connacht Rugby project team “and what has worked to our advantage is that the team has unflinching faith in us and is hugely invested into our project”.
 

Features

The revamped home of Connacht Rugby will come armed with a synthetic pitch, a High Performance Centre and a capacity rise of the facility from 8,129 to 12,500.

He informed that a lot of rugby clubs have graduated to synthetic pitches over the years as “the West of Ireland is the wettest part of Europe and playing on grass surfaces comes with its set of challenges. Graduating to synthetic turf has led to fewer injuries in players.”

The High Performance Centre is almost like a page taken out from the Premier League club Crystal Palace FC Training Academy (UK). Boyle stated that mixed seating and terracing will “hugely add to the atmosphere as well”.

The lounges are quite spacious and are flexible lounges which can hold up to 1,000 guests.
 

Tunnel Club

The Sportsground will boast the first Tunnel Club in Ireland – an exclusive space which will add to the product offering.
 

Takeaways

Boyle concluded by reasserting that it is very important to take the community on which the venue sits into confidence and that makes the entire journey of sprucing up a stadium or building a new venue much easier. Moreover, huge spaces where fans get more elbow room help in garnering revenue and everything should be very transparent when it comes to communicating with the stakeholders.

The West Ireland is a place full of hustle and bustle and emanates a lot of positive energy. The redecorated The Sportsground will further add to that energy and verve.

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