An economic impact calculated at €800m; a global audience of 800m people; a justifiable boost for a sport that unifies the whole of Ireland like none other; a longlist of stadia, the flagships of which are already in place; and recognition for one of the founding fathers of the international game with that first match, against England in Dublin on December 13, 1875. What’s not to like?
Of course the rivals, France and South Africa, are venerable rugby giants in their own right and both have huge experience in providing a platform and support for outstanding tournaments, none more so than the Nelson Mandela/Francois Pienaar/Rainbow Nation 1995 World Cup which provided the birth myth for modern South Africa.
It will take a highly professional campaign to secure the necessary 19-vote majority on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 — mark that date in your diary — but we can enter the fray with confidence high. Irish rugby is riding a wave. It’s difficult to believe that many, if any, other nations in the world could have brought 62,300 people to Soldier Field in Chicago at the start of November even given the formidable drawing power of the All Blacks.
In Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium we have arenas to rival the Nou Camp, Wembley and the Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. All of the 12 locations identified as potential venues are urban based. The welcome will be formidable.
There is also a heritage to be considered. The IRFU promotional material carefully melds images of the peerless Jackie Kyle and redoubtable Syd Millar with Brian O’Driscoll, one of the faces of the 2023 bid. There are many others who can be added to this mix, from both the Republic and the North, who can lead the charm offensive.
The elephant in the room for any global sports occasion of this magnitude is the issue of ticketing and access for ordinary fans. We have seen that blight the opening days of an otherwise successful Olympics in London and the experience of Rio was even more discouraging. It is the aspiration of Ireland 2023 to make the tournament accessible for all. This will be a signal achievement, but it is likely to be the one on which organisers will be judged.
From the perspective of 2016 it can be difficult to imagine what seven years from now might look like. By the time 2023 arrives we will have witnessed football World Cups in Russia and, intriguingly, Qatar; and a summer Olympics in Japan. The 2019 Rugby World Cup will also take place in Japan. There may, or may not, be a hard Brexit. Who can forecast the position of the United States by that time, when we couldn’t predict it ten days ago? What condition might the EU be in?
All this will require consummate planning skills from the IRFU. As the bid process begins we give it our full support. It could be a grand time for everyone.