Varadkar leads Irish bid in three-way battle for Rugby World Cup

French president distances himself from process involving 30-minute presentation

Ireland's bid team prepare to make their last pitch to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup with a special promotional video. Video: Merrion Street

 

Monday marks another significant landmark in the three-way battle between Ireland, South Africa and France for the right to host the 2023 World Cup. The three bidding teams will each make 30-minute presentations to the entire World Rugby Council (which will ultimately decide on the destination of the tournament on November 15th) in the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, London, on Monday morning.

These will in turn be followed by 20-minute question and answer sessions, after which the respective bidding teams will also host their own press conferences to outline some of the detail and scale of their presentations.

The Ireland bidding team sees today’s presentations as a crucial opportunity to clearly demonstrate the all-embracing scale of their proposal to have what IRFU chief executive Philip Browne says would be “a World Cup like no other” on this island six years from now.

A critical component of their presentation is that the Irish bid has the most proactive government support of the three rival contenders. Accordingly, in addition to Browne, the Irish bid will be presented by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Ireland’s bid ambassador Brian O’Driscoll; head of the Northern Ireland civil service David Sterling; and worldwide president and chief executive of the Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin.

Also in attendance will be bid director Kevin Potts; Minister for Sport Shane Ross; Ireland 2023 oversight board chairman Dick Spring; IRFU president Philip Orr; and Ireland women’s captain Niamh Briggs.

South Africa’s bid will be headed by their government’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa along with the South African Rugby Union duo of president Mark Alexander and chief executive Jurie Roux.

The French team will be led by its bid director Claude Atcher; president of the French Rugby Federation Bernard Laporte; and French sports minister Laura Flessel.

Video presentation

However, French president Emmanuel Macron will not be in attendance and, significantly, French sports newspaper l’Equipe reported last Thursday that he would not even be making a three-minute video presentation as part of the French bid.

This has been interpreted as a desire by Macron to distance himself from the French bid, on foot of seven members of a French Federation appeals committee resigning in protest over what they saw as interference from Mr Laporte to influence a reduced fine and punishment to Montpelier for improper supporters-banners.

Montpelier are owned by billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad and the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) subsequently revealed that Altrad Investment Authority, owned by Altrad, and BL Communication, managed by Laporte, signed a one-year partnership last February, for €150,000. On foot of this, the aforementioned Ms Flessel launched an investigation into the affair.

This has clearly damaged the French bid, which has sought to dwarf the other bids by offering a bigger guarantee and profits.

Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL) set the tournament fee at €135 million, which the Irish Government has underwritten and vowed to pay, as they have the entire tournament and commercial programme, as well as vowing to exceed the estimated €170 million profits from the 2015 World Cup in England.

Enlarged fee

The French bid includes an enlarged tournament fee of €170 million (while the South African bid has pledged a fee of over €180 million) and an estimated profit of €300 million. The French government have underwritten the fee, while their tournament budget and commercial programme are not understood to be guaranteed by government, but rather private interests.

While the smallest of the three, the Governmental financing of the Irish bid would considerably reduce the need to charge inflated ticket prices.

The World Rugby Council comprises 39 votes, excluding those of the three rival bidders, and in a more transparent process than before now, the Rugby World Cup technical review group will enlist specialist consultants before issuing its recommendations on October 31st.

That could well be critical in influencing council members when they meet on November 15th in London, although, were two or three bids to receive positive reports, then the last two years of canvassing and today’s presentations might ultimately have a significant bearing as well.

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