The race to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup intensifies

By Josh Cogley

The three candidate nations, Ireland, France and South Africa are furiously lobbying World Rugby officials, trying to gain support for their respective bids before the host nation is decided in November. A huge amount of time, effort and money has been allocated to Ireland’s bid for the prize, but when the cost of bidding is put beside the economic benefits of hosting, a successful bid is worth every penny.
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Tourism Ireland has estimated that the direct impact of hosting the 2023 World cup in Ireland would be €800 million in revenue. This estimate is a conservative one, with the money generated potentially must higher.

445,000 visitors are projected to come to Irish soil during the competition. This would make the 2023 World Cup the highest attended World Cup to date. Due to Ireland’s advanced tourism infrastructure, officials are confident that such a crowd will not provide a challenge.

The economic benefits of this influx of visitors will be felt in every corner of the country. Of the 12 match venues on the IRFU shortlist, three are in Dublin, two in Belfast with the rest in Cork, Kerry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo and Derry.

The GAA stand to benefit greatly should the Irish bid be successful. Eight of the 12 proposed venues are GAA grounds, and the IRFU has said that all of them would require renovation to bring them up to the required standard to host such a prestigious event. The GAA is expected to receive millions of euros through renovations and other means as a direct result of the tournament.

The Irish delegation are heavily pushing the influence of the Irish diaspora in Northern Ireland as one of their key advantages over the other candidate nations. North America is a key market for World Rugby, one that they have yet to take full advantage of. The Irish are pointing to the 35 million people of Irish descent in the USA and 4.5 million in Canada as an integral part of their proposal.

The idea is that this huge latent audience will tune in to an Irish hosted tournament in much greater numbers than on hosted by another country. This is the ace in the hole for the IRFU’s bid.

The looming Brexit poses an unwelcome problem for the Irish bid, adding a layer of uncertainty that does not exist for the other potential host nations. The prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, though faint, would present massive logistical problems.

Speaking after the IRFU’s presentation to the World Rugby Technical Review Group last week, IRFU head Philip Browne spoke about the prospects of Brexit.

“No one knows at this stage how Brexit is going to manifest itself. The one thing that we do have is a commitment from the governments in the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Executive and indeed Whitehall in the UK to ensure that nothing will stand in the way to make this a seamless competition on both sides of the border.”


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