GAA boss says rugby report disappointing but no final decision yet
Eight GAA grounds have joined four rugby stadiums as part of Ireland’s World Cup bid
The redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The Rugby World Cup evaluation report raises questions over its suitability. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
As the chief provider of stadiums for Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid, the GAA has good reason to be disappointed that World Rugby’s technical review group rated the category of “venues and host cities” so poorly compared to the bids of South Africa and France.
Eight GAA grounds have joined the four rugby stadiums as part of Ireland’s bid: Croke Park (Dublin), Páirc Uí Chaoimh (Cork), Casement Park (Belfast), Fitzgerald Stadium (Kerry), Pearse Stadium (Galway), McHale Park (Mayo), Nowlan Park (Kilkenny) and Celtic Park (Derry), along with the Aviva Stadium (Dublin), Thomond Park (Limerick), Ravenhill (Belfast) and the RDS (Dublin).
While the evaluation report noted that Nowlan Park, Celtic Park, McHale Park and the RDS would not make the final list of host venues if Ireland won the vote on November 15th, it still raised questions over the suitability of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Fitzgerald Stadium, Pearse Stadium and also the availability of Casement Park.
GAA director general Páraic Duffy, a member of the Rugby 2023 Oversight Bid Committee, admitted his disappointment at the findings of the report, while also reiterating that it was not yet the final decision. “What has come out this morning is disappointing, but it’s not the final decision. I’ve no doubt that the bid team will work really, really hard over the next couple of weeks.”
On the report’s remarks about the stadiums’ suitability, Duffy said: “We offered our stadia as they are. Everybody recognised that if the tournament does come here, work will have to be done to the stadia. There is nothing new in that.”
Ireland trailed South Africa by 6.72% overall, but finished 4.78% behind the now favoured 2023 RWC hosts when it came to the venues and host cities.
The report revealed that Ireland had not scored as high as France and South Africa “as their venues require considerable work which creates a higher risk than venues that are already in place following major events. The host cities do vary in size, with one significantly smaller than the other bidders’ smallest city.”
The review group also expressed some misgivings about the work still be to completed in terms of some proposed Irish stadiums. It read: “Páirc Uí Chaoimh (complete August 2017), Pearse Stadium and Fitzgerald Stadium require a significant level of overlay which is flagged as a risk given the amount of work required to bring these venues up to RWC standard. Casement Park is scheduled for redevelopment by 2020 and will also require a significant level of overlay. At time of writing we understand that this venue is still subject to final planning approval.”
It added: “RWCL [Rugby World Cup Limited] stated they would look at a seating/standing proposal as each bidder has different venues available and their own unique vision, but the aspiration would be for all Category A and knockout matches to be in all seated venues. The Ireland bid proposed 95% seated, 5% standing for knockout games. The 5% would be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but the bid has allocated plans and budget for all seating as this would be the RWCL requirement.”
Duffy admitted the stalled redevelopment of Casement Park was still an issue. “I’m worried about Casement Park from a GAA point of view because it has gone on so long. I’m here since 2008. 2009 is the first time the Ulster Council approached us about funding for Casement Park. I’m worried in that eight years on they still haven’t got planning permission.
“So I’m worried about it from a GAA point of view, and obviously the Rugby World Cup bid point of view. I do think Casement will get there. I honestly believe that. But it’s desperately slow.
“The GAA money is there. We’ve given a commitment already. I assume the money is still there from the British government. The money is still there. Everyone is working on the basis that it will go ahead. Clearly it’s an important part of the Rugby World Cup bid, but the funding of it was agreed long before there was ever mention of a Rugby World Cup.”