Ireland’s 2023 RWC bid falling short on infrastructure

Venues considered ‘higher risk’ due to work needed while ‘cities lack prior experience’

Alan Gilpin, the head of the Rugby World Cup, explains the review process behind endorsing a bid to host the tournament. Video: World Rugby


Ireland’s Achilles heel in terms of their 2023 Rugby World Cup bid in the eyes of World Rugby’s Technical Review Group came under the category of ‘venues and host cities’ for which there was the single biggest individual weighting, constituting 30 per cent of the total across the five areas of comparison.

Ireland trailed South Africa by 6.72% overall but a finished a whopping 4.78% behind the favoured 2023 RWC hosts when it came to the venues and host cities. Despite a guarantee of €34 million from the Irish governments to cover the cost of stadium upgrades it failed to convince the review panel.

The report found that: “Ireland hasn’t 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 bidder’s smallest city.

“The cities lack prior experience of an event on the scale of RWC and have therefore scored lower than France and South Africa who have significant city delivery major event experience.” In that specific appraisal South Africa were given a score of 21.88%, France 18.75% and Ireland 12.5%, although when the mathematical equation was completed it only constituted a net loss of 0.5% for Ireland in relation to the South African bid.

World Rugby’s Technical review Group also expressed some misgivings about the work still be to completed in terms of some proposed Irish stadiums - it should be noted that Nowlan Park, Celtic Park, McHale Park and the RDS - will not make the final list of host venues if Ireland win the vote on November 15th in London - and that was included in the report.

It read: “Parc Ui 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. The proposal outlines a plan for seating and standing in venues with 81% of tickets seated with the remaining 19% standing. During the applicant phase, Ireland’s proposal outlined that the venues would have seating and standing facilities.

“RWCL 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 Pairc Ui Chaoimh but the bid has allocated plans and budget for all seating as this would be the RWCL requirement.”

South Africa and France eclipsed Ireland’s offering in terms of the tournament fee of £120 million payable to World Rugby. That figure is a minimum requirement. The Irish governments, north and south, gave a commitment to pay the £120 million, the South Africa government agreed to pay £160 million while the French government agreed to underwrite a payment of £150 million.

Ireland made up the revenue shortfall from the fee on South Africa by guaranteeing a more lucrative commercial return, including sponsorship and advertising. France had the superior Financial and Commercial commitments.

The Irish government refused to get into a bidding war in terms of elevating the tournament fee past the £120 million as it would have been a tough sell to the public.

The report stated: “Tt was a requirement of the bidding process for each candidate to confirm a Tournament Fee payable to RWCL of a minimum of £120 million. Candidates were permitted to propose a Tournament Fee in excess of this minimum figure. Candidates were also required to confirm how the Tournament Fee would be paid and guaranteed.

“World Rugby was consistently clear with all candidates (from the outset of the host selection process) that the optimum position for World Rugby is a Tournament Fee (1) paid by the Government of the host nation, without recourse to the Tournament Budget - as this ensures that expenditure on the delivery of an outstanding tournament is not put under pressure by the Tournament Fee requirements in the event of pressure on Tournament Revenues (particularly ticket sales); and (2) that the full Tournament Fee should be secured by an appropriate state or Government guarantee.”

As the graphic illustrates Ireland finished last in three of the five comparative categories that were ascribed individual weightings, Tournament organisation and schedule (5%, weighting), venues and host cities (30%) and Tournament Infrastructure (20%). Ireland came joint last in Finance, Commercial and Commitments (35%) and finished second in Vision and Hosting Concept (10%).

Ireland’s Oversight Bid team is gearing for a frantic 24 hours as they phone or speak to in person each of the unions that have the 39 votes that will decide which country hosts the 2023 Rugby World Cup. They haven’t given in and may take some succour that London were well behind in the race before securing the 2012 Olympics while Rio was fifth of five candidates four years later. The charm offensive has to go into overdrive.

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