Seanad passes Bill to support Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid

Bill passes without vote despite concerns over TV rights and State’s underwriting of bid

Minister for Sport Shane Ross stressed the benefits the tournament would bring to Ireland if the bid was successful. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Sport Shane Ross stressed the benefits the tournament would bring to Ireland if the bid was successful. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Rugby World Cup bill was passed through all stages in the Seanad last night without a vote, clearing the way for the IRFU to lodge Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 tournament.

Emergency legislation was necessary to enable the Government to underwrite the tournament fee of €138 million and the cost of staging the tournament, reckoned to be in the region of €200 million.

Several Senators raised concerns about the bid and the rapid progress of the Bill through the Oireachtas, but none voted against the measure.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond criticised politicians and commentators who had raised questions about the Bill, suggesting they were undermining the Irish bid for the tournament.

“The attempts to undermine this bid based on obvious commercial requirements show a glaring lack of knowledge. It is especially disappointing to hear it coming from experienced politicians and commentators in some cases,” he said.

“In addition, the attempts to guarantee free-to-air coverage of the entire tournament are reckless and run counter to the overall aim to present Ireland as the best possible tournament host, compliant to the rules and needs of World Rugby,” Mr Richmond said.

‘Reckless concerns’

If the bid fails those who raised “reckless concerns” would be guilty of jeopardising it, he said.

“Choose your comments carefully,” Mr Richmond said to those who were inclined to criticise aspects of the bid or the legislation before the House.

However, Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin took exception to Mr Richmond’s remarks and said Senators had a duty to raise questions about the bid where appropriate.

A number of Senators raised the issue of television rights for the tournament, which are not part of the bid. Television rights will be sold separately by World Rugby, and the Irish Government will have no say in the matter.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said that the country had bitter experience of giving financial guarantees and that Senators should be given more information about the details of the bid.

A number of Senators expressed concerns about the extent of the State’s underwriting of the bid and the rushed nature of the legislation.

“Why can’t we push through emergency legislation on housing crisis and the trolley crisis?” Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said.

Benefits

Earlier, Minister for Sport Shane Ross stressed the benefits the tournament would bring to Ireland if the bid was successful.

Mr Ross said he regretted the legislation was coming so late. He said that this was because the former Attorney General had revised her legal advice.

He declined to give specific information about the guarantee that the Government will provide for the tournament bid. However, he said the Government’s underwriting was “in the region of” €200 million. He also said that cancellation insurance was taken out.

“Obviously if you were in a bidding process you wouldn’t reveal your top bid to anyone,” Mr Ross said.

He said that the State could provide cash flow to the company if it cannot source bank funding, but that the money would be repaid from tournament receipts.

“The likelihood is that we will have a very successful tournament,” Mr Ross said.