John Drennan: Varadkar keen to explore World Cup bid
Published 19/02/2012 | 05:00
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar will meet shortly with the IRFU to see if Ireland will launch a bid to host the Rugby World Cup.
It is believed that the IRFU is currently engaged in "detailed research into the possibility of Ireland hosting the 2023 World Cup".
However, Varadkar's very public declaration of support for the project is likely to give significant impetus to the Union's ambitions. Government support would be vital to any bid given that Japan have had to guarantee the 2019 RWC to the tune of €115m and that is likely to increase by about 10 per cent for the 2023 staging.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one senior source said: "The Minister wants to see it happen but would need first to see if it is feasible. This has been canvassed, something concrete is happening," and the view from the top is that "if it is feasible it would be fantastic."
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne confirmed that the ambitious project was being considered. "It's something that we've looked at in the past and coming back from New Zealand and seeing what they were able to do there, we said let's have a look at it again. So that's all we're doing: having a think about it. It's a question ultimately of whether the Government wants to get involved in it or not. If they don't want to get involved in it then it doesn't happen."
The 2023 event is the next available slot for hosting the World Cup and it is believed the IRFU have 12 months to formalise a bid. Though top-level political support would be invaluable, a source close to the Minister said "any initiative would have to be led by the IRFU."
Significantly, Mr Varadkar's relations with the IRFU are far warmer than those that existed during his predecessor Eamon Ryan's tenure. Though the Minister has made light of his sporting credentials in public, he is "a closet Leinster fan" who admits to having played "very bad rugby as a child but kept an interest."
As a politician, Varadkar is believed to be more interested in "the huge tourist and macro-economic boost and the positive effect on national morale hosting such a tremendous sporting event would have."
Responding to concerns that such a bid would suffer the same fate as Gay Mitchell's famous suggestion that the Olympics should be brought to Dublin, a spokesperson for the Department noted the objective facts were completely different. "Unlike the 1980s we already have the stadiums and infrastructure for such a competition," said the spokesperson, adding that the success of the recent New Zealand World Cup "proved small countries can hold such an event."
They noted that when it comes to grounds we "already have the Aviva and the RDS, Croke Park has been used for rugby in the past, Ravenhill is currently being refurbished and we also have other historic grounds such as Thomond Park."
Top-level sources also noted "the tournament could be held on an All-Ireland basis whilst the other Celtic Nations, Wales and Scotland, or England for that matter, could be involved."
A World Cup can attract tens of thousands of visiting fans, 2,500 international media, and up to 2,500 corporate and VIP guests throughout the tournament. It is believed the RWC in 2007 brought in 400,000 additional visitors to France delivering a total economic impact of €4bn.
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