Saturday 23 February 2019

Ireland could profit from €100m World Cup bid

Martin Snedden believes an Irish bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup would have huge potential. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images for IRB
Martin Snedden believes an Irish bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup would have huge potential. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images for IRB

John Greene

THE Government will have to underwrite a guaranteed payment of more than €100m for Ireland to stand any chance of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

A cross-border working group, chaired by former Irish international Hugo MacNeill, was established earlier this year to prepare a feasibility study into a joint bid by the two governments north and south of the border to host the prestigious tournament in nine years.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) charges a fee to the host nation of the Rugby World Cup which must be paid once the tournament is completed.

It is understood the fee for the 2023 tournament will be in excess of €100m, and possibly as high as €120m. This fee must be guaranteed in advance but because the figure is far greater than the IRFU could possibly pledge from its own resources, it must be underwritten by the State.

However, a leading expert on bidding for major sporting events has said that Ireland should not be fazed by this.

Martin Snedden, who was responsible for organising the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand three years ago, said he was confident an Irish bid would have huge potential.

New Zealand made a loss of NZ$30m (€19m) in 2011, but Snedden believes Ireland is better equipped to recoup the massive IRB fee.

"The money is not as big a problem for you as it was for us," Snedden told the Sunday Independent. "You actually could run this tournament at a profit whereas we couldn't. Aside from the geography, we had to spend so much money on infrastructure, which you do not have to do."

New Zealand invested hundreds of millions upgrading stadiums and roads in the run-up to the 2011 tournament, universally regarded as one of the most successful ever held.

"The infrastructure is here, that's the huge advantage Ireland has over New Zealand," said Snedden. "We had to do quite a bit of stadia upgrades and even a new stadium, and we had some transport infrastructure upgrades that we had to that cost a lot of money. From my understanding of things, virtually all of that's done in Ireland."

If Ireland makes a successful submission, the IRFU will also be responsible for all costs associated with staging games, including the travel and accommodation costs for the other 19 visiting teams, which adds tens of millions of euro to the overall cost of hosting the tournament.

In return, the IRFU will be allowed to retain revenue from ticket sales while, on top of its fee, the IRB retains all commercial revenue, including broadcasting rights. In 2011, New Zealand made NZ$271m (€171m) from ticket sales.

Snedden admitted that while the cost of staging the Rugby World Cup is "significant", the potential rewards are enormous.

"What no one can ever know exactly is how much money is spent by the visitors but our best estimates are that it was somewhere in the region of €500m – maybe a little less, maybe a little more, difficult to tell – but a pretty good return on the investment made by New Zealand. Ireland will attract far more than double the number of visitors than we did. I think you could confidentially expect upwards of 300,000 visitors for a Rugby World Cup."

Snedden, who met last week with MacNeill's steering group having also met with Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in New Zealand recently to gauge the level of political support for a potential bid, believes "Ireland can put together something that will make people sit up and take notice".

He added: "In the end, my view was that it was a pretty good investment for New Zealand and I think it's a great investment for Ireland.

"You shouldn't get scared or fazed by it. Yes there's a lot of money needed but most of that money is paid once you've received your ticket revenue so you're not forking it out up front. The event will be a success."

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said Snedden's endorsement of a potential Irish bid was hugely encouraging.

"As he said there are many challenges and it will require a massive collective effort but it would be fantastic occasion for the island," said Minister Varadkar.

"The group, chaired by Hugo MacNeill, is putting together a report for both governments on the feasibility of the island making a bid. I am looking forward to receiving their report by the end of the summer."

Sunday Indo Sport

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