World Cup 2023: Ireland to make record financial offer to World Rugby

Irish bid has promised to exceed surplus of €170 million-plus generated by 2015 event

The Ireland team behind the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup has declared that, compared to previous World Cups, the financial offer will be the largest yet delivered to the game's governing body, World Rugby.

They have not revealed the precise figure, but clearly the Irish bid has promised to exceed the record surplus for World Rugby of €170 million-plus which the 2015 World Cup in England is believed to have generated.

That included the tournament fee of €90.14 million due to World Rugby for hosting the competition, which has since risen to €108.6 million for the 2019 tournament in Japan, and €135.21 million for the 2023 World Cup.

Leading representatives from the Irish bidding team gave a media briefing in the Irish Embassy in London yesterday on foot of meeting the RFU. Coincidentally, the French bidding team were doing likewise at their embassy in London.


The French bid, including their hospitality package, has apparently promised World Rugby a profit of €300 million. This is based on selling 130,000-plus hospitality packages, even though only 60,000 hospitality packages were sold at last year’s European Championships in football.

Furthermore, the Irish bid fulfils the criteria set out by World Rugby in that is entirely underwritten by the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

A statement issued by the IRFU yesterday said: "While exact details of the financial package being offered to World Rugby must remain confidential, the IRFU are confident that their financial offer will be the largest delivered to World Rugby, and the most secure, thanks to the unrivalled commitment of the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland."

This means that there will be no financial risk to either World Rugby or the IRFU, and ticketing pricing for a World Cup in Ireland can be set with the primary goal of filling all the stadia for every game. The Government backing can in part be attributed to the estimated €1.5 billion which a Rugby World Cup is expected to generate for the Irish economy.

A key component of the Irish bid has been its capacity to reach out to the diaspora of 70 million, and particularly the 40 million in North America, which is a key strategic market for World Rugby.

"We have put a really, really forceful proposal on the table to Rugby World Cup," said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne. "If the rugby community is genuine about wanting to expand the sport, if they want to inspire people from other countries as potential hosts, then we believe we've made it easy for them to do that.

Three-handed contest

“What we’d see as a tripartite partnership has to be put in place, between Ireland 2023 if we win the bid, World Rugby and US Rugby. It’s about what can we do to increase the footprint of rugby in North America.”

Asked if he would envisage Ireland hosting in 2023 paving the way for the US to stage a future World Cup, Browne replied: “I would hope so; the diaspora is not just about getting Irish Americans to come for Ireland to the World Cup.

"Ireland's Test match against New Zealand in November last year drew a crowd of 62,500 – that's the highest-ranking rugby event in the US. We worked very closely around the Chicago match with the promoters, who specifically targeted the Irish diaspora."

The next step in the three-handed contest to host the 2023 tournament comes next Monday in London, when each of the three bidding teams will make a presentation of no more than 30 minutes to the full World Rugby council. The respective presentations by the three teams will then be followed by a questions and answers briefing, also up to a maximum of 30 minutes.

The Irish bid will be presented by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, the IRFU CEO Philip Browne, Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's Bid Ambassador, David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and Kieran McLoughlin, Worldwide President and CEO of The Ireland Funds.

Also in attendance will be Kevin Potts, IRFU COO and Bid Director; Shane Ross TD, Minister for Sport; Dick Spring, chairman, Ireland 2023 Oversight Board; IRFU president Philip Orr, and Niamh Briggs, captain of the Ireland Women's Rugby Team.

On foot of that, the RWC’s Technical Review Group will analyse each bid in detail, enlisting outside consultants to thoroughly examine the financial viability of each bid, security and other considerations, before publishing its recommendations on October 31st.

Their findings could be very significant, albeit only for consideration, before the World Council meets in London on November 15th, to decide which of the three bidding countries will win the right to host the 2023 World Cup.

The three bidding rivals are not permitted to vote, while a change in the voting structure adopted at last May's meeting of the World Rugby Council has increased the number of votes from 37 to 39, thereby ensuring 20 rather than 19 votes will be the threshold, due to Argentina and Japan each being granted an increase of one vote to three and two votes respectively.

It is a straight majority vote. If no country gets a majority in the first round of voting then the country with the least number of votes at that point is eliminated.

World Council voting: Tier 1 England 3 votes, Wales 3 votes, Scotland 3 votes, Italy 3 votes, New Zealand 3 votes, Australia 3 votes, Argentina 3 votes. Regional Associations – Oceania 2 votes, South America 2 votes, North America 2 votes, Africa 2 votes, Europe 2 votes, Asia 2 votes. Other Unions – Japan 2 votes, Canada 1 vote, USA 1 vote, Georgia 1 vote, Romania 1 vote. Total: 39 votes

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times