SA Rugby’s day of reck­on­ing

In­tegrity of process through which World Cup host is se­lected at stake

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Craig Ray

At 3.15pm on Wed­nes­day, the in­tegrity of the process through which the host coun­try of Rugby World Cup 2023 is se­lected‚ and more broadly of rugby gover­nance‚ will be re­vealed.

At 3.15pm on Wed­nes­day, the in­tegrity of the process through which the host coun­try of Rugby World Cup 2023 is se­lected‚ and more broadly of rugby gover­nance‚ will be on dis­play.

The rec­ti­tude of rugby’s lead­er­ship will be un­der­mined if any name other than “SA” emerges from an en­ve­lope in London.

If SA‚ the pre­ferred can­di­date based on the rec­om­men­da­tion by an in­de­pen­dent panel of ex­perts af­ter an ex­haus­tive anal­y­sis of the bids‚ does not win‚ find­ing bid­ders in fu­ture might be dif­fi­cult.

The Olympics and foot­ball World Cup have been marred by ac­cu­sa­tions of ne­far­i­ous bid­ding pro­cesses and rugby has en­dured sim­i­lar cor­ri­dor as­ser­tions. By mak­ing the bids trans­par­ent and the find­ings of the eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee pub­lic‚ World Rugby has chal­lenged its mem­ber­ship coun­cil to vote purely on tech­ni­cal mer­its.

The po­ten­tial cost of putting on a World Cup is large, as are the ben­e­fits.

Be­cause of the com­plex na­ture of pre­sent­ing the third­biggest global sport­ing event‚ World Rugby has tried to move away from shad­owy deals and last-minute prom­ises.

It is a se­cret bal­lot and SA has a his­tory of be­ing hurt in these sit­u­a­tions. It was the case when it bid for both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cup‚ the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 foot­ball World Cup.

France and Ire­land‚ the other two coun­tries in the race‚ have pre­sented strong bids‚ which was ac­knowl­edged by the eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee. But it has rec­om­mended that votes go to SA‚ which scored 79% to France’s 76% and Ire­land’s 73%.

If the process were com­pletely hon­est‚ SA should win all 39 avail­able votes be­cause ev­ery coun­cil mem­ber agreed to the process and to use the out­come of the eval­u­a­tion process to guide its vote. But that sce­nario is un­likely‚ which casts doubt over the bid­ding process yet again.

SA‚ France and Ire­land can­not vote and all that SA knows is it is guar­an­teed nine votes from its Sanzaar part­ners.

In­di­ca­tions from Bri­tain are that the Rugby Foot­ball Union (RFU) is set to vote against SA and it might take Wales with it. Ac­cord­ing to a week­end news­pa­per re­port the UK’s depart­ment of sport urged the RFU to side with Ire­land’s bid.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Rugby has two votes‚ and should in the­ory vote for SA. But its pres­i­dent lives in Paris and is known to be friendly with French of­fi­cials.

France be­lieves it has 14 votes, ac­cord­ing to sources in that coun­try‚ which makes it a dan­ger­ous op­po­nent.

If no coun­try earns an out­right ma­jor­ity of 20 votes in the first round of vot­ing, the bid with the least sup­port will drop out and the process will move to a sec­ond round. If Ire­land or France drops out in the first round, those votes should go to the pre­ferred can­di­date. But noth­ing is guar­an­teed.

SA Rugby pres­i­dent Mark Alexan­der and CE Jurie Roux have been in London lob­by­ing for del­e­gates to do the right thing and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa ar­rived on Tues­day to help sell the bid.

Images /Gallo

Pole po­si­tion: SA Rugby CE Jurie Roux ar­rives to hand in SA’s bid in Dublin on May 30. The na­tion to host the 2023 World Cup will be an­nounced in London on Wed­nes­day af­ter a se­cret bal­lot.

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