The head of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid team believes they have already secured over 40% of the votes available in the race to secure the 2023 tournament.
The claim was made yesterday by the bid team’s chairman Dick Spring, former tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, who also insists that the research figures will project into a “financially successful” tournament despite a €100 million advance fee to host it.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, the former Ireland international said the efforts of Hugo MacNeill and the working group set up last year has provided encouraging evidence to support the bid.
“I would say at this stage we are already up over the 40% mark [in terms of votes],” Spring said. “And we would be working to build from that.”
Given that between any number of countries there can be votes owed or promised off the back of previous World Cup selection processes and that powerful rivals such as South Africa and France will not support an Irish bid, the estimate of 40% is remarkable.
There is also an unknown element because, as Spring reported, World Rugby are changing the voting process, which will see the current eligible voting unions rise from 27 to possibly 40 by the end of the year. “Voting strengths will change,” he added. “We will know what those are in the autumn and then we will go hunting. A lot of work has been done already which means we can hit the ground running, but we know it’s going to be an absolute dogfight.”
In sizing up Ireland’s competitors to host the 2023 tournament, it is worth noting that the likes of South Africa and France, who held the 1995 and 2007 World Cups respectively, have the resources in place.
For the United States and Argentina they would argue that the facilities that currently exist within their own sporting infrastructures would marry neatly with the opportunity to spread the game beyond its traditional borders.
But Spring believes Ireland have a number of ace cards to play, starting with a blend of stadia and the welcoming know-how of our tourist industry.
“We’ve got to get the message out there about the stadia – it’s there, it’ll be finished – and explain to people why Ireland as an island can have a successful World Cup,” Spring said.
He cited venues such as Fitzgerald Stadium (50,000), Semple Stadium (53,000) and Croke Park (82,000) that the world rugby community might not be aware of and thanked the GAA for its support.
Were Ireland to win the rights to host the tournament then the up-front cost to World Rugby would be in excess of €100m but Spring said that both the Irish and Northern Irish governments have already agreed to guarantee those sums. “We would be very confident that we could fill the stadia and have a very successful tournament at no economic cost to the country,” he said.
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