Leicester fury at being left off World Cup list


LEICESTER CHAIRMAN Peter Tom has accused World Cup officials of betraying the Tigers’ contribution to English rugby for cold, hard cash after Welford Road was axed as a potential tournament venue. Gloucester’s Kingsholm is the only Premiership rugby ground on a list of 17 stadia under consideration for the 2015 World Cup, 12 of which belong to Premier League or Football League clubs.

The home grounds of Manchester United, Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Southampton have all been included by England Rugby 2015 after expressing an interest in staging World Cup matches. ER2015 have also named the new Brighton stadium, Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, Pride Park in Derby, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, Leeds United’s ground Elland Road and Stadium:mk on the long list.

The World Cup organising company have to sell 2.9 million tickets in order to cover the €99 million guarantee owed to the International Rugby Board. That equates to average gates of 60,000 per match, which is why football grounds were included along with Twickenham, Wembley, the Olympic Stadium and the Millennium Stadium.

Leicester is still represented by the city’s 32,000-capacity football stadium after Welford Road failed an evaluation of its pitch size and off-field facilities. But Tom was furious, arguing his club’s investment in English rugby had been disregarded in favour of football clubs who had given nothing to the sport.

“We are hugely disappointed,” Tom said. “Welford Road is home to the best-supported and most successful club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status.

“Leicester Tigers invested £15 million in building the new Caterpillar Stand in 2009 to take Welford Road’s capacity up to 24,000. A programme of development will continue to improve facilities and the matchday experience for players, supporters and corporate guests. It is disappointing that this investment is not rewarded with World Cup status.”

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie, who is on the board of ER2015, insisted the decision was not a snub to Leicester’s contribution to the sport. But Ritchie did concede the romance of World Cup matches being played at Welford Road did not stack up against the reality of facilities and ticket sales.

The final selection of 10-12 venues will be confirmed early in the new year.

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