France has placed finances above everything in a bid to host Rugby World Cup 2023 ahead of rivals Ireland and South Africa, writes Barry Coughlan of the Irish Examiner.
It appears the bidding process will come down to a straight contest between Ireland and France in the coming weeks as World Rugby continue the assessment.
Ireland has guaranteed that World Rugby’s financial demands and all other requirements will be met through the cooperation of the Irish and British Governments.
Some of the World Cup games would be held in Northern Irelan, but the French have promised significantly more money and now they have warned that anything but a French tournament would have serious consequences for the worldwide game going forward.
In a bid to host the tournament for the second time, France has taken the unusual step of guaranteeing €169m, €33m over the odds, which is underwritten by the government, as well as €266m for the operational costs of organising the tournament thanks to an agreement with the financial group Société Générale.
Additionally, France intends to buy the commercial rights for hospitality and marketing from World Rugby for €126m with ticketing revenue forecast at €425m and a further €101m in government support secured.
Now, in an article in the Guardian newspaper, France, through bid leader Claude Atcher, says anything but a French hosted tournament would signal the death of international rugby. The money provided to World Rugby through their successful bid would, it is suggested, help stop French Top 14 clubs from luring southern hemisphere players to Europe by the boatload.
Outlining a proposal he believes would provide World Rugby with €394m for reinvestment, the bid leader revealed plans to address the international landscape that has left France and England as the dominant economic forces.
“If we don’t do anything, in five to 10 years you will have two, three to four teams on the same level and that’s all, and I think rugby will die,” said Atcher. “If you are looking at New Zealand, the best team in the world, their financial report in June showed they lost €3m, South Africa, they lost €2m and Australia, they have a lot of issues with structure, teams, players and financially.
“We are not World Rugby and do not want to fight with them, they are a key body. But to develop rugby we need some new teams, a strong team in the USA, Russia and China, and emerging countries, to increase the capacity of rugby and to involve more people around the world.”
Ireland, though, has matched money with substance and has put expansion into the United States, amongst a host of other innovative ideas that would benefit the worldwide game, at the forefront of its bid.
“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,” said the Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive, Philip Browne.
“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.”