Today, representatives from the Ireland Rugby World Cup 2023 bid will make their presentation to World Rugby in London.
The main theme running through the Irish Rugby World Cup bid is certainty. Everything is in place and everything is guaranteed. Leo Varadker, the Irish Prime Minister, is attending the Irish bid presentation today, reinforcing the unity and cohesion behind their plans.
This is in sharp contrast to their two main rivals, South Africa and France, where the whiff of corruption and lack of government clarity hang over both bids.
Emmanuel Macron, the French Prime Minister, will not be present when the French hand over their bid, despite previously saying he would attend. This is likely due to the allegations surrounding Bernard Laporte, the current French Rugby President. It is alleged Laporte persuaded the Appeals Board of the Fédération Française de Rugby to reduce the punishment for players of Top 14 club Montpellier, who are owned by Mohad Altred. Delegates from the FFR have flown to London in Altrad’s private plane.
The South African bid has been on an uneasy footing from the start. At one stage, the bid was banned by the government due to their failure to achieve their set transformation targets. The self-imposed ban was lifted earlier this year. Current Prime Minister Jacob Zuma continually battles accusations of corruption and has, to date, survived eight votes of no confidence in parliament.
Though the Irish bid is strong, secure and united, there are some obvious advantages to both the French and South African bids, despite the accusations of corruption. Both nations have prior experience of hosting the Rugby World Cup (South Africa played host to the famous post-Apartheid World Cup in 1995, and France hosted in 2007). France and South Africa also have recent experience hosting the FIFA World Cup (in 1998 and 2010, respectively).
Furthermore, their range of stadia sizes dwarfs those that are available to the Irish bid: the smallest stadium across both the French and South African bids is the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, which has a capacity of 32,900, while half of the twelve stadia in the Irish bid have capacities lower than that amount.
Both France and South Africa have emphasised their advantage in facilities throughout the bidding process. The South African bid centres on their “eight world class all-seater match venues” which were either built or renovated for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Equally the French have put forward their current facilities as a major strength of their bid, which features many stadia that were used in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 UEFA European Championships.
FFR representative Claude Atcher told the Guardian last week made it clear that his federation recognised the importance of strong facilities in a Rugby World Cup bid.
He said: “in the bid you have to prove that your stadiums are at the level of international competition.”
Ireland’s response to their lack of experience in hosting international events and lesser facilities, is a deliberately enticing carrot for World Rugby, the American market. The Irish bid cites forty million Americans with Irish heritage, and the IRFU has plans for a rugby west initiative that will attempt to create hubs in the states for the World Cup and also drive Americans to travel over for the Rugby World Cup. The IRFU are hoping than an influx of rugby supporters from the United States will be enough to secure them their first-ever Rugby World Cup bid.
World Rugby, who decide where the tournament is played, is made up of the many nations who take part in rugby union. As always, politics will play a role in who receives the rights to host the event. Countries like America and Canada have publicly declared their support for Ireland, but the vote ultimately comes down to a secret ballot, so words do not mean everything.
The Irish bid is headlined as a “tournament like no other”. The IRFU have guaranteed finances and stadiums, with promises of igniting the American market. “A tournament like no other” is also a promise, but it can more aptly be listed as a guarantee.
If World Rugby want a host nation where the event would take over an entire country, Ireland would be an excellent host. Every city, town and village would buzz with the thrill of hosting an event which the world would be watching. The Rugby World Cup would not disappear into outskirts of the city, like it did in England two years ago.
The Irish are well-known to be hospitable people, and would relish a chance to live up to that reputation. Irish people love nothing more than when the world speaks positively about them. It is an unspoken yet massive part of Irish society and culture. The Rugby World Cup would be the best platform the nation has ever had to do just that. Every fan, visitor and player would be treated in a way that only the Irish can. It would, without doubt, be a tournament like no other.
However, there are the financial concerns to note: World Rugby received record revenues from the England World Cup in 2015, and there is no doubt they would like the 2023 Rugby World Cup to continue this trend. They will likely side with whichever bid has the best plan to be financially successful. While France and South Africa have hosted the Rugby World Cup before, if World Rugby want a truly special event that will capture the imagination, they will select Ireland to host in 2023.
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