Thursday 22 August 2019

Off The Ball: Summit loss bodes ill for World Cup bid

Fireworks at Twickenham after New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup victory
Fireworks at Twickenham after New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup victory

Ger Gilroy

The Web Summit isn't an obvious place to start a Rugby World Cup final column but bear with me. A little bit of background first - the Sports Summit was added to the schedule last year at the RDS and was an instant success, bringing together some Irish sports people, heavy hitters from the UK and Canadian sports media and a sprinkling of star dust with Rio Ferdinand.

It was a good start, it gave some early-stage Irish companies the chance to showcase their business to a room full of sports fans who were also into technology.


Nothing earth-shattering, just getting people together and offering them the chance to talk.

This year they've brought a jazz schedule to blow the doors off last year including everyone from the CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, the guys behind America's biggest fantasy sports companies, HBO, BT Sport, the current Tour de France winner, Edwin van der Sar in his future role as Ajax CEO and Pádraig Harrington talking about blood markers.

Amongst a hundred others.

As a free add-on to the rest of the Summit it was not just a great idea, it was well executed and offers a template for future sports conferences here.

It's a petri dish of ideas and enthusiasm, of things said and unsaid and everyone is happy to stop and chat. We're losing it to Lisbon next year because the Government didn't spot the opportunity.

Apparently, they're all over the Rugby World Cup though. So don't worry. They've got this. At the final last weekend it was impossible not to be impressed by the job done by the English organising committee.

They sold out practically every game at massive ticket prices, increasing the amount the next hosts will be expected to deliver, which may well be something Ireland struggles with.

So the government will have to underwrite the enterprise and assume a certain amount of risk.

We should talk about that in a calm way so everyone understands the implications. Maybe, on balance, it's worth the risk but it's not a sure thing.

The Web Summit and the Sports Summit were way cheaper and almost zero risk. Invest a little bit in traffic management, put on the glad rags and entice people to come for a holiday or to do business here while a private company books the guests and puts on the show. The politicians screwed that up.

They can get behind the Rugby World Cup safe in the knowledge if it goes horribly wrong they probably won't be left holding the ball but do they really have the aptitude to deliver it when they've just sent the Summit to Lisbon?

You'll forgive me for withholding judgement on that one until we sell out Samoa-Georgia at Fitzgerald Stadium.


Irish Independent

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