Rugby World Cup 2023: the pros and cons of the three bids
An examination of how Ireland’s bid fares against France’s and South Africa’s
The Irish delegation at the press conference where Ireland presented their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
A new host
Ireland has never hosted a World Cup before and this would adhere to World Rugby’s (WR) stated aim of spreading the game globally.
The Irish bid may be the smallest, in terms of the guarantee and projected profits, but it is all Government-backed and could thus be banked tomorrow. What’s more, it would deliver on its promise of projecting the tournament into North America like never before.
A united Irish bid, North and South, ticks World Rugby’s politically correct box, added to which is the support of the GAA.
A legally-binding agreement with hoteliers that they will not increase prices beyond a 20 per cent margin from 2021 rates.
The Irish bid claims to have the best ticket prices, starting from as low as €15, although average prices in 2015 were over €60. WR wants full houses, albeit the projected 450,000 visitors and 2.2 million ticket sales seems ambitious given the 350,000 who visited England for 2015.
Whatever about every venue being within two hours of Dublin (by helicopter maybe) ala New Zealand 2011 there would be much more of a buy-in by the entire country.
The Irish Government has guaranteed the commercial side of the bid but the French, albeit with contentious hospitality projections, is hard to compete with.
Let’s be honest, we’re not known for our glorious weather, even in summer time.
Ireland did host the Women’s World Cup this year, but has never undertaken a sporting project of this size.
Might is Right
The French are dangling a supposed €300 million in front of the World Rugby council, backed by Bernard Laporte’s buddy, Mohed Altrad, and those contentious hospitality packages. But money talks and this is WR’s four-yearly cash cow.
The 2007 tournament was a huge success, as was the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2016 in football. They have the stadia as well as the infrastructure, whatever about its promise of 2.58 million ticket sales.
Have offered to host all the squads, even those eliminated in the pool stages, until the end.
France in September and October assures generally pleasant playing and spectator conditions.
Awarding them the World Cup for a second time in five cycles hardly broadens the game’s reach.
The prospect of the 2024 Paris Olympics could leave an RWC as something of a bridesmaid, ala Japan in 2019 a year before the Tokyo Olympics.
Euro 2016 passed off without major incident but this remains a real concern.
The Laporte Factor
His murky relationship with the Montpellier owner, Mohed Altrad, has led to an investigation by the French minister of sport, Laura Flessel. Monday’s non-attendance of President Emmanuel Macron, who did not even contribute a video, was symbolically significant.
Having last hosted the World Cup in 1995, they have been unsuccessful with three consecutive bids and the southern hemisphere hasn’t had it since 2011.
Need is good
South Africa is one of the traditional powerhouses of the game but is suffering badly economically, with almost 300 players based professionally overseas amid dwindling attendances.
Have trumped both the Irish and French tournament fees and, however contentiously, vowed to deliver projected profits of €250 million to World Rugby.
Their bid has played heavily on the iconic images from 1995 when Nelson Mandela handed the trophy to Francois Pienaar.
As well as the ‘95 tournament, South Africa has hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup and the 2010 World Cup in football, albeit some of the stadia have been white elephants.
As with France, South Africa in September and October assures generally pleasant playing and spectator conditions.
Filling the grounds
The projected sale of 2.9 million tickets looks fanciful. Witness the 6,000 or so for the Cheetahs’ double header against the Pumas and Leinster despite free entry for those with tickets to today’s Springboks-Australia game.
Fulfilling its promises
Witness Durban winning the rights to the 2022 Commonwealth Games only for it to be stripped of that event due to financial difficulties.
There would be less overseas visitors than in the other two countries, as well as the vast differences between venues.
The uneasy relationship between the SARU and their government initially delayed their entry into the race.
The level of crime in South Africa should make this a very valid concern for the World Rugby Council.