IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has warned that the professional game here could cease to exist by next year if supporters continue to be locked out of stadiums due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the Oireachtas Covid-19 Response Committee today, Browne said that Irish Rugby's losses this year due to coronavirus were forecasted to be in excess of €30m, and added the union's financial situation will deteriorate "at an alarming rate" into 2021 if spectators do not return in meaningful numbers.
Though 100 spectators would technically be allowed, there will be no members of the public at Leinster's Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens at the 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium tomorrow.
If Dublin, currently battling a spike in cases and expected to be placed at level 3 of the government's restrictions, was to improve to level 1, the number allowed would increase to 500.
On Sunday, 5,000 Toulouse fans will cheer on their team against Ulster in their quarter-final at the 19,500 Stade Ernest-Wallon.
Browne said that the IRFU was spending €5m a month, primarily on professional game wages and costs, and that from having had a cash surplus of €28m in June this year, they anticipate being over €10m in debt by June 2021.
"If these projections were to materialise, the very existence of professional rugby on the island would be under significant threat in 2021," he said.
In 2018/19 the professional game - the Irish national team and the four provinces - generated 96% of the association's then record income of €87.5m.
Browne warned that despite the implementation of cost-cutting measures across the union, including salary cuts of up to 20% and redundancies, the IRFU's current financial position is not sustainable and will require "significant additional actions" after December if there is no sight of supporters returning at that point.
Browne said the IRFU will be forced to commence borrowing in January, forecasting that until "we can admit spectators in meaningful numbers into our stadia, and return to some level approaching self-sustainability, the whole rugby infrastructure built over the last 150 years is under threat".
The IRFU, GAA and FAI are awaiting Government confirmation on how it will divide €40m promised to the three sporting bodies as a Covid grant package.