High stakes game for hope­fuls:

Win­ner of three-way con­test to stage 2023 tour­na­ment will be se­lected on Novem­ber 15th

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Gerry Thorn­ley

As we en­ter the de­ci­sive home straight in the three-way con­test to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the prize at stake is sim­ply enor­mous. Aside from the sport­ing legacy it will leave, the largesse ac­crued to the re­spec­tive bid­ding economies ranges in es­ti­mate from ¤1.5 bil­lion in Ire­land to ¤1.75 bil­lion in South Africa and ¤2.44 bil­lion in France.

Hav­ing can­vassed around the world for up­wards of the last 12 months, the three bid­ding teams made their pre­sen­ta­tions to the World Rugby Coun­cil last Mon­day in Kens­ing­ton. Each bid will now be re­viewed in de­tail by the tech­ni­cal re­view group, eval­u­ated against weighted cri­te­ria, and will fea­ture in­de­pen­dent eco­nomic, fi­nan­cial and com­mer­cial as­sess­ment by Dow Jones Sports In­tel­li­gence, the multi-na­tional law firm Clif­ford Chance, and other ex­pert ad­vis­ers.

This will also be in­de­pen­dently as­sessed by the Sports Con­sul­tancy be­fore the Rugby World Cup Board will then make its host rec­om­men­da­tion on Oc­to­ber 31st.

The board con­sists of five men. Bill Beau­mont is the pres­i­dent of World Rugby (WR), who would ul­ti­mately have the cast­ing vote in the un­likely event of a tie. Agustin Pi­chot, the vice-pres­i­dent of WR, will also be an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure, not least in the des­tiny of the three votes from Ar­gentina and two from the South Amer­i­can as­so­ci­a­tion. The oth­ers are Brett Gosper, the CEO of WR; Michael Hawker, an Aus­tralian; and Gareth Davies, the for­mer Welsh out­half.

The tech­ni­cal re­view group, which has vis­ited all three would-be hosts, con­sists of Alan Gilpin, tour­na­ment di­rec­tor of the Rugby World Cup; Linda Hoey, host ser­vices man­ager for the Rugby World Cup; Robert Brophy, head of fi­nance, World Rugby; and Ross Aitken, World Rugby cities and venues man­ager.

The bids will be eval­u­ated in line with World Rugby’s seven host­ing ob­jec­tives, with vary­ing scor­ing per­cent­ages to ap­ply across these seven cri­te­ria.

The first is “venues and in­fras­truc­ture com­men­su­rate with a top-tier ma­jor event”. This is ef­fec­tively sta­dia ca­pac­ity with sizes de­pen­dent on the needs of given


“An en­abling en­vi­ron­ment of po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity that re­spects the di­ver­sity of Rugby World Cup’s global stake­hold­ers.” This ef­fec­tively means sta­ble and trust­wor­thy gov­ern­ments, and it’s hard to en­vis­age Ire­land and France not scor­ing bet­ter than South Africa here, given their re­spec­tive credit rat­ings.

Fur­ther­more, Dur­ban be­ing stripped of the 2022 Com­mon­wealth Games be­cause they didn’t hon­our com­mit­ments given in their bid doesn’t help South Africa’s bid. Mark Alexan­der, head of the Dur­ban bid, is also head­ing the 2023 RWC bid.

“An en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate suited to top-level sport in a ge­og­ra­phy that al­lows max­i­mum fan mo­bil­ity.” Ire­land’s com­pact­ness should be another pos­i­tive. France is big­ger, but with proven trans­port net­works. The big­ger dif­fer­ences be­tween venues in South Africa would re­quire more air travel, but the “en­vi­ron­ment” brings into fo­cus the is­sue of se­cu­rity. South Africa will point to the height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures, al­though on the Global Peace In­dex, Ire­land comes in 10th, France is rated 51st, and South Africa, even more sadly, 123rd.

In any event, on foot of the World Rugby Board an­nounc­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions on Oc­to­ber 31st, the 2023 host will be se­lected on Novem­ber 15th by the World Rugby Coun­cil.

Were the rec­om­men­da­tion to heav­ily weigh in favour of one of the bids, that should prove de­ci­sive, but were two or three to be closely rated, then the can­vass­ing of the last 12 months and next six weeks would come more into play.

This week­end, the Ir­ish pre­sen­ta­tion team of Philip Browne, Kevin Potts, Pat Whe­lan and John O’Driscoll, will com­plete their global trek when they are hosted by the UAR in Buenos Aires, while the French team are vis­it­ing Ja­pan, and then the Welsh Union.

There will be 26 in­di­vid­u­als in the room vot­ing on Novem­ber 15th, rep­re­sent­ing the 39 votes to be cast from around the world. If a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of 20 votes is not reached on the first count, then the low­est will be omit­ted and there will be a sec­ond count.

As Browne said last Mon­day, there are al­ways swing votes. “To be fair, all the peo­ple we vis­ited said we’d re­ally like to see what the out­come of the as­sess­ments are be­fore they start promis­ing their votes.

“I un­der­stand that and it would make a mock­ery of the process if they started of­fer­ing their votes with­out see­ing the as­sess­ments. So a lot of them are play­ing their cards close to their chests. But we have a good sense of who we think has an affin­ity with what we are try­ing to do and say. I can’t share that with you but we are in a rea­son­able state.”

Pho­to­graph: Billy Stick­land/inpho

Ire­land v Eng­land at Croke Park in 2007. The GAA head­quar­ters will host the fi­nal if Ire­land win the right to host the 2023 World Cup.

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