Size matters as Ireland bid falls short in stadia and cities
Comparative scoring under ‘Venue and Cities’ plays big part in Ireland’s low score
The need to upgrade the required technology standard at the match venues counted against the Irish bid
Whatever way you look at it, Tuesday’s recommendation by the board of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) that South Africa host the 2023 tournament comes as a hugely disappointing and damaging blow to the Irish bid.
Whether it was based on misguided optimism or not, Ireland began the day as 4/6 favourites to host the 2023 World Cup, with France at 4/1 and South Africa 6/1. Yet on foot of the evaluation report into all three bids, South Africa is now 1/6 favourites, with France at 5/1 and Ireland at 6/1 and drifting, with some bookies going as far as 9/1 or even 12/1.
That pretty much says it all.
The recommendation is designed to weigh heavily on the minds of the World Rugby Council members when they meet in the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London, on November 15th and cast their 39 votes.
The Irish bidding team has not conceded defeat yet, and Dick Spring, chairman of the Ireland 2023 Bid Oversight Board, immediately vowed that Ireland would “compete to the final minute”.
Yet having come last in the comparative scoring in three of the five categories, Ireland is now the outsider to achieve the stated objective of 20 votes on November 15th.
It transpired that the comparative scoring under “Venue and Cities” accounted for 30 per cent of the overall scoring. In this Ireland finished 4.88 per cent behind South Africa which, given it finished 6.72 per cent behind overall, did more than anything to undermine Ireland’s bid.
Yet if nothing else the process has been transparent, and even the three bidding teams will have needed all of Tuesday and more to decipher the 220-page report.
Each bid includes a minimum of eight venues that meet or, allowing for upgrading, will meet Rugby World Cup Limited’s minimum “venue standards” requirements.
The report states 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 report adds that the Irish “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”.
Noting the work which still had to be done on some of the stadiums included in the Irish bid, the report stated: “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 per cent of tickets seated with the remaining 19 per cent standing. During the applicant phase Ireland’s proposal outlined that the venues would have seating and standing facilities.”
The report also notes that all of the South African venues “were either built or renovated for the Fifa World Cup 2010, and have continued to be upgraded to meet the standard”.
It adds: “South Africa has significantly exceeded expectations, and has scored higher than France and Ireland because all the venues are of world-class standard and ready to host RWC.”
Of course, it was for reasons such as this that New Zealand did not win the recommendation to host the 2011 World Cup, although it did ultimately win the vote and laid on a fantastic tournament.
As with Rotorua, New Plymouth et al, so it is with Thomond Park and Kingspan Stadium in that relatively small grounds can be beautiful too.
Unlike bigger South African venues, they are also full on a regular basis, and assuredly would be for a World Cup.
Rather curiously, the ability to fill stadiums is not examined in this report, and in this all recent evidence with regard to domestic matches suggests South Africa would have major difficulties in this regard.
One imagines the French will be mildly astonished that they too have been so heavily outscored by the South Africans with regard to venues and host cities.
The need to upgrade the required technology standard at the match venues counted against the Irish bid. The report stated: “Diverse telecommunications are only available in two of the eight venues, and six of the eight venues require significant technology upgrades and overlay to provide the standard required for RWC 2023. Therefore this magnitude of work presents a risk to delivery, and this risk is reflected in the score.”
By contrast, the report says of the South African bid: “Solid and diverse telecommunication links are in place, both at local venue and international levels, and are scalable to meet increased future requirements. The International Broadcast Centre is in place next to the National Stadium, and was purpose-built for Fifa World Cup 2010.”
It is mildly astonishing that each bid has scored identically in the category of security. In this the report cited the heightened security measures which South Africa put in place for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, although on the Global Peace Index Ireland comes in 10th, France is rated 51st, and South Africa, even more sadly, 123rd.
Also, somewhat surprisingly, Durban’s failure to deliver the Commonwealth Games in 2022 was dismissed in the report as not a relevant or comparative issue.