Sport International Rugby

Saturday 17 August 2019

Irish World Cup bid letter outlines 'shock' at recommendation as Spring comes out fighting with appeal for votes


Dick Spring, chairman of the Bid Oversight Board
Dick Spring, chairman of the Bid Oversight Board
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

A letter sent by Ireland's Rugby World Cup bid chairman Dick Spring has urged voters on World Rugby's Council to look beyond this week's recommendation that South Africa host the 2023 tournament.

In the letter, which was sent by bid chairman Spring to members of the Council on Wednesday and seen by today, the Irish bid outlined its unhappiness with the outcome of the report of Rugby World Cup Ltd's technical review group.

Spring expressed the Irish bid's "shock" at the "narrow, operational and theoretical" approach taken by the technical review group in selecting the Rainbow Nation as the preferred host of the 2023 World Cup ahead of Ireland and France.

The union was taken aback by the scoring criteria used in the review which was published on Tuesday ahead of the final vote by World Rugby's Council on November 15.

He pointed to the fact that 96% of the difference in scoring between South Africa and Ireland came down to stadia and experience of hosting a previous tournament, and questioned what kind of tournament the technical review group wants to take place.

Spring warned that the "skewed basis" of the scoring system rewarded Ireland's rivals' prior history of hosting major events used by the report "will preclude the majority of potential new bidders from ever having the opportunity to host Rugby World Cup, therefore thwarting the growth of the game and rugby's flagship event".

He also raised particular concerns about the way in which the security section of the report was evaluated.

The technical review group's report recommended the South African bid, placing Ireland third behind France in second place.

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That recommendation has been endorsed by the New Zealand Rugby Union who hold three of the 39 available Council votes, but the Irish bid and the French Federation have both outlined their concerns about the process in separate letters to the delegates who will have the final say.

The Irish bid was surprised by the fact that potential low attendances at the "large, out of town football stadiums" nominated by France and South Africa was considered favourable to full houses at what it described as "appropriately sized" city centre venues.

Spring raised the prospect of matches taking place against the back-drop of empty seats and highlighted that the smallest nominated stadium in South Africa has a capacity of 41,538. France's smallest ground holds 33,150 while Ireland's smallest venue has a capacity of 17,000.

The Irish bid letter argued that full, smaller stadia would "transmit positive images of the tournament and the RWC brand to international TV audiences".

The report marked Ireland down under its 'Cities and Stadia' criteria because many of the grounds require significant improvement.

However, Spring pointed out that the technical review group confirmed that Ireland's plan is "realistic, well-informed and achievable" and added: "We remain convinced, as do many neutral commentators in the media and elsewhere, that our venue plan, combined with Ireland's renowned welcome, is the ideal for Rugby World Cup 2023 and will result in one of the most memorable Rugby World Cup experiences ever."

Spring also questioned why Ireland did not fare better on the issue of security.

"We are amazed at the analysis of security issues as contained in the Evaluation Report, given that it gives a similar security scoring to all three candidates," Spring wrote.

"For context, The Global Peace Index, recognised as the world's most trustworthy measurement, places Ireland at 10th, France at 51st and South Africa at 123rd.

"This index gauges security using three key themes: the level of safety and security in society (personal security); the extent of domestic and international conflict (national security); and the degree of militarisation. None of these important factors are properly addressed in the World Rugby report."

Spring's letter also pointed out that South Africa has been stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games which were due to be held in Durban.

"We do not raise these issues lightly," Spring wrote.

"But all of us who have worked on the Irish bid believe that one of the greatest aspects of rugby is its unique sense of fair play – and that you, as voters, should have these important facts in front of you to ensure this standard.

"We remain totally convinced that Ireland offers you the best possible option for the 2023 Rugby World Cup – one that has several unique aspects that could never be scored in a narrow report.

Rather than rely solely on the findings of this consultant-dominated report we ask, in a spirit reflecting all that is great about Rugby, that you consider our bid in full and then exert your right to vote in the best interests of rugby and the Rugby World Cup.

"Let me leave you with the words of Albert Einstein as you review the report and ponder probably the most important decision you will face for World Rugby this decade:

"'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted'."

Members of the Council will decide the hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in London on November 15 and Ireland's mission now is to convince delegates to ignore the non-binding recommendation of the technical review group.

The 39 available votes are split between the four remaining Six Nations unions (England, Wales, Scotland and Italy) and the three other SANZAAR unions (Argentina, Australia and New Zealand) which are not involved in the bidding, while the six regional associations and the Japanese union have two votes each.

The remaining four votes belong to the unions of Georgia, Canada, the United States and Romania.

World Rugby's process has come under renewed fire from the French Federation president Bernard Laporte who described the report as "misguided and flawed". Laporte has also written to the members of Council in an attempt to get them to look beyond this week's recommendation.

The governing body this morning responded to Laporte's comments, defending its position.

"World Rugby is concerned by the reported comments by host candidates regarding the Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection process and recommendation, and in particular those attributed to the Fédération Française de Rugby," a World Rugby statement read.

"While disappointment and high-emotion following the announcement of a recommendation is understandable, such comments are both unfounded and inaccurate.

"World Rugby has implemented a transparent, objective, professional and robust host selection process. The comprehensive technical evaluation has been undertaken by a team of World Rugby and third-party experts, independently scrutinised by The Sports Consultancy against agreed scoring criteria. The process has been supported by the host candidates, the Rugby World Cup Board and Council throughout.

"We will be raising our concerns on this matter with the Fédération Française de Rugby and look forward to the World Rugby Council appointing the Rugby World Cup 2023 host on 15 November with a clear, comprehensive and objective recommendation to consider."

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