Yesterday’s report by World Rugby’s Technical Review Group was fulsome in its praise for three “outstanding candidate submissions” and the IRFU was particularly keen to cling on to the remark that all of them could host a “successful” tournament.
Yet the chances of the Rugby World Cup taking place on these shores come 2023 receded significantly with the unveiling of the 139-page document (though a number of those pages were redacted for confidentiality reasons).
It’s important to note that Ireland did not ‘fail’ in any category but that France and, in particular, South Africa scored higher in a number of key areas.
Below are some of the main reasons why yesterday was so disappointing for the Irish bid.
VENUES AND HOST CITIES
The most important of the five criteria given it accounted for 30% of the total weightings. Ireland ranked behind the other candidates due to major stadium upgrades/building work that would be required. This made it “a higher risk” even if there was a confidence that this would be completed.
It was noted that Casement Park has still to be rebuilt while Fitzgerald Stadium and, strangely, the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, were listed as other venues in need of considerable upgrading in order to meet RWC standards.
Rugby World Cup also stated a desire to have 100% seating for venues hosting Category A and all knockout games. Ireland offered 95% with the 5% standing accounted for by Páirc Uí Chaoimh. That could be made an all-seater if absolutely required.
There was also concern raised over the fact all but two of the proposed venues needed major upgrading for IT purposes. Addressing this would entail “significant upgrade works” that introduce an element of “risk” despite a confidence by the assessors that it would be addressed.
LACK OF EXPERIENCE
Ireland’s track record in catering for events as disparate as the Europa League final and the visit of Queen Elizabeth II was noted but so too was the fact the country has never catered for a major multi-city international sporting event.
“Experience has become an increasingly important factor in the successful delivery of the tournament and a number of challenges currently existing in relation to RWC 2019 relate to the relative inexperience of the OC (organising committee) in Japan,” read the report.
This basically tarred Ireland with another “level of risk”, the all-island bid falling behind France who in turn scored lower than South Africa due to the 2024 Paris Olympics which would threaten to overshadow the World Cup.
The Irish bid team did engage with World Rugby extensively over a two-year period in order to better understand the challenges involved but it was suggested that the country’s experience of hosting pool games as part of the European Championship will help the cause there.
A 2027 bid anyone?
FINANCIAL, COMMERCIAL, AND COMMITMENTS
Ireland actually scored more than credibly across the full set of criteria here, rating higher than South Africa in three of the five sub-categories but, crucially, a distant third in terms of tournament fee — the one that carried most of the weight (30%).
The commitments from France and South Africa to add an extra £50m (€56.9m) or so onto the minimum fee of £120m (€136.6m) was always going to pay dividends. Money talks.
OTHER AREAS OF NOTE
Ireland’s commitment to help crack the North American market with its considerable diaspora was noted but, said the report, needed to be “further expanded” while all three were deemed level in terms of security despite concerns about crime in South Africa and terrorism in France.
South Africa also scored higher than Ireland when it came to accommodation and transport with the report stating at one point that some cities here would rely on neighbouring urban areas for hotel rooms.
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