Rugby World Cup bid ‘not a waste of money’

Hugo MacNeill (right) with Enda Kenny

The Government has said underwriting a €320m bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid is “not a waste of money” amid fierce criticism yesterday.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan warned the Government against committing €320m of public money to support Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup without any analysis of the risks.

Mr Ryan objected to the emergency Rugby World Cup 2023 Bill going through the Dáil and Seanad this week with just four hours of debate in total and without any pre-legislative scrutiny.

“The way this is being done in terms of public oversight is totally wrong. The only information I have gotten is a note from the Oireachtas. It will be discussed today and finished this afternoon, that is it,” he said.

“This landed in the Dáil last week; yes the [Attorney General] said this had to be rushed through, but the people behind this should have come to the committee and discussed the figures. We have to underwrite the costs, which are unlikely but there is that risk.”

The Government proposed to deal with the bill yesterday on a fast-tracked basis, but Mr Ryan called for a delay of a week to allow the IRFU answers questions at the Oireachtas committee on transport, tourism, and sport.

Responding to Mr Ryan’s concerns, Hugo MacNeill, a former international player and member of the bid team, said it has been properly tested and scrutinised for several years.

“The report clearly showed the benefits of hosting this World Cup significantly outweigh the costs. The costs of the bid are relatively small, it is less than a couple of million,” he said.

The first-round economic benefits are in the order of €800m, but could top €1.5bn, said Mr MacNeill.

He said the tournament fee of £120m (€137m) will represent 20% of every euro which is estimated to come back to the exchequer.

Senator John O’Mahony (FG) said this has been risk-assessed over the past four years. “The only exposure I see is the entry fee that we have to pay, which is £120m. The tournament costs of €320m then are underwritten by the State,” he said.

He said the legislation needed to be fast-tracked due to the timing issue and said members of the sports committee were briefed for two hours last week on all the issues over which Mr Ryan expressed concern.

“The benefits this will bring to the country are enormous. This is not a waste of money,” he said.

Mr O’Mahony said he would have no problem with the team behind the bid coming into the Oireachtas next week.

“There is no blank cheque, there is nothing underhanded going on here. If this bid was scuppered in the morning, it would do nothing to solve the housing crisis,” he said.

The emergency legislation has been rushed through the House to ensure Ireland can submit a secure bid to host the Rugby World Cup. The bill will allow Sports Minister Shane Ross to support Ireland’s bid and the staging of the tournament.

Before her departure as attorney general, Máire Whelan advised the Government it would not be able to give specific guarantees to support the bid without legislation to back it.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the bill had been provided for and “as the House would be aware, the order and the schedule has been agreed by the business committee on this”.


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