After months of preparation, a promo video to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and a multitude of inspirational advertisements, Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid suffered a massive blow last week.
This came at the hands of World Rugby who officially recommended South Africa as the host nation for the tournament on October 31.
Irish rugby officials have come out this Wednesday morning in defiant fashion over the World Cup host selection policy though, by branding their bid as being assessed ‘unreasonably’.
Aiming to host the monumental tournament for the first time, this recommendation makes their selection highly unlikely. To rub salt into the wounds, France came second in the process, even though they hosted the event as recently as 2007.
In a tirade which some say looks suspiciously like sour grapes, the chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union Philip Browne has compiled all the injustices committed by World Rugby into a four-page letter composed to Brett Gosper, the Chief Executive of World Rugby.
Mr Browne outline his issues by writing;
“There are very clear examples in recent times of starkly empty stadia in South Africa for significant fixtures. The evaluation report does not appear to address this in any meaningful way.”
Mr Browne goes into more detail about why he is frustrated by Ireland scoring 72.25% compared to South Africa’s 78.97%, by raising concerns with security for fans and teams alike.
Such is his anger and annoyance at the selection process that legal action has been mentioned.
He posed the thought-provoking question:
“Was an independently recognised, world class security organisation used to review the underlying security situation within each bidding country… if not, why not?”
While this frustration is shared with millions of rugby fans desperate to see the 2023 tournament in Ireland, the bids were ranked and scored in a variety of measures.
These included infrastructure, financial, commercial and security assessments. Another criterion was the quality of stadiums, an area that Ireland’s bid faired particularly badly in.
South Africa especially and France have multiple enormous venues for games to be held in and, while South Africa may struggle to fill them for Super Rugby and PRO14 games, World Rugby obviously see that these would be filled for the tournament.
At the 2015 World Cup in England, a total of 2.5 million fans attended games.
This unbelievable figure must have raised concern with World Rugby, with Ireland’s bid including Kingspan Stadium and Celtic Park that only have a capacity of 18,196 and 17,000 respectively.
The proposed use of Casement Park is also of concern seen as planning permission still hasn’t been approved. This being said, Sandy Park and Kingsholm Stadium were used in 2015, with a capacity of only 12,000 and 16,000 respectively.
They were just used for fixtures that had less demand by fans for tickets, surely just as Ireland would use these two grounds.
While the concern over stadium is a frank one, this is not the only area that Ireland scored particularly poorly on. The scoring system marked down heavily on infrastructure and organisation, with the report highlighting concerns over transport and technology.
Gosper and co have taken a staunchly pragmatic approach but Ireland’s bid for the 2023 World Cup is much more of a romantic one.
It would be a beautiful host nation due to its vibrant capital, amazing culture and picturesque countryside. Perhaps in the business minded thinking of the governing body, it just doesn’t tick all the boxes, a task made massively difficult due to the small size of the country.
However, hope remains, with the final decision being made on November 15.
Aled Price, Pundit Arena