Monday 21 October 2019

Spring goes on offensive over skewed report

Dick Spring: ‘We remain totally convinced that Ireland offers the best possible option for 2023. Photo: Sportsfile
Dick Spring: ‘We remain totally convinced that Ireland offers the best possible option for 2023. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland's World Cup bid chairman Dick Spring has written to rugby unions around the world expressing shock at what he claims is the "narrow, operational and theoretical approach adopted in the final report" of World Rugby on bids for RWC 2023.

Moreover, he said that the "skewed" basis of the report would militate against the growth of the game by discouraging future bids from nations who hadn't hosted the tournament.

France federation president Bernard Laporte has also reacted angrily to the report, claiming it to contain "blatant errors" on issues from hotel accommodation to ownership of stadia.

"I don't believe in bad faith," Laporte said on Friday. "I rather think that it's incompetence."

World Rugby yesterday said they were concerned at the comments attributed to Ireland and France, and defended the quality of their process.

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

"We will be raising our concerns on this matter with the FFR 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."

Spring welcomes in his letter, sent to World Rugby council members and their unions, that the report found that all three bidders would be capable of hosting the tournament - it found South Africa to be the clear winner - but he took issue specifically on three areas: stadia, security, and previous hosting experience.

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Ireland was marked down on each of these criteria in the report, which was a collaboration between a World Rugby technical committee - comprising their own personnel and outside help - and an independent sports consultancy.

Spring wrote that the weighing mechanism used in the report did not take into account whether or not the stadia would be full. Both France's and South Africa's nominated stadia - which have been used respectively for the European Football Championship in 2016 and the football World Cup in 2010 - have far greater capacity that Ireland's.

"Ireland's plan guarantees: Approximately sized stadiums for each stage of the tournament that meet all RWCL's (Rugby World Cup Limited) published requirements; filled with enthusiastic and knowledgeable rugby supporters; Set in the hearts of communities for ease of access and supporter experience; transmitting positive images of the tournament and the RWC brand to international TV audiences."

On the security criterion, he wrote: "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. 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."

Moreover, he said that the report focused on the security plans proposed by the bidders rather than the actual security threat, and that RWCL did not appear to have engaged independent, specialist security advice in assessing the bids. This echoes in part claims made by Laporte that the report was more an exercise conducted internally than externally.

On the subject of prior hosting experience - Ireland is alone of three bidders never to have hosted a tournament - Spring maintains there is an anomaly between on the one hand acknowledging Ireland's capability to run the event and on the other marking the bid down for having no previous track record in World Cups. He also points out that no weight was given to the fact that South Africa had lost the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban.

Spring closed by reiterating that no decision on RWC 2023 is taken until the vote takes place in London in 10 days' time.

"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."

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