Hawkeye Sidekick

RWC 2023: Ireland Bid falls short

Shortly before 11am GMT on October 31st, rumors started to circulate that South Africa were the recommended bid for the RWC 2023 tournament. The recommendation phase is seen by many as a decisive moment in this bid process and given that France and Ireland were not recommended, it looks a formality that the 2023 RWC will be staged in South Africa, a country with noted experience of hosting World Cup events in both rugby and soccer. Hawkeye Sidekick examines the findings and it makes for sobering findings for the Irish RWC 2023 stakeholders. Naive, unprepared come to mind.

Experience Key:

A key point which resonated throughout the report was experience of organizing and running tournaments of this magnitude. Six week tournament, the coordination of running games in several parts of a country at the same time; the coordination required from a security, logistics and infrastructural perspective were put under the microscope.

Given the only experience of hosting a Rugby World Cup event was only last summer and the fact that the event was only held in two cities (Dublin and Belfast), the bid score faltered on the experience point struggled.

It does raise a question on how a country like Ireland who wants to host a prestigious tournament can do so given this key criterion. Does a country like Ireland need to submit for test events such as U20’s / Women’s World Cups to show World Rugby their ambitions.

If today proved anything, countries like Ireland cannot expect to win RWC bids with no prior experience of hosting significant World Cup style tournaments. There needs to be mandatory criteria on this point. Ireland obviously were inexperienced, noble to bid for this event but were the bidding team wasting their time from day one?

Infrastructural Issues:

The significant flaw to the Ireland RWC 2023 bid. The report focused on existing infrastructure and the scores reflected this. Casement Park has being the elephant in the room on this bid; national media have veered away from the topic for fear of undermining the tournament bid chances. Little progress made on planning permission in recent months. The report even commenting that the planning permissions had not being finalized for the Belfast venue. It raised serious questions on one of the standout stadiums of the bid.

The inevitable shortcomings on a couple of GAA grounds selected for the bid were easy targets. Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Fitzgerald Stadium, Pearse Stadium upgrade work was highlighted. Lack of infrastructure cited and needs to be addressed bid or no bid. RWC 2023 bid focused on potential, existing shortcomings from an infrastructural could not be masked to a visiting party. Accommodation and transportation concerns surely were easy criticisms as well.

RWC 2023 – Vision: 

The RWC 2023 vision and subsequent legacy should have being criteria that the Ireland bidding team should have nailed but the feedback received was disappointing, struggled in the scoring stakes.

Cross border relationships (have we not already done this?) was prominently mentioned along with working with some fledgling affiliated rugby groups to promote the game worldwide. Nothing innovative.

France’s proposal had creativity and tangible returns. Create a link between the country and T2 nations, use France as a place for these nations to learn and improve, provide equipment post World Cup to these nations to improve facilities. Accessibility points  was excellent. Disability involvement in the sport.

Ireland’s vision was wordy; no concrete example of how this would work post-tournament particularly promoting the game from a global perspective. Vision sets the tone for the visiting committee and Ireland were always behind the eight ball thereafter.

Money, Money, Money:

Revenue stream projections were below both France and South Africa. Return on Investment is key and Ireland’s ideological bid based on a small country hosting the tournament (untried) was not financially attractive or viable to World Rugby in short.

South Africa’s track record to generate revenue in their previous tournament (1995) was a noteworthy tournament; the ability of a country to unite and the revenues generated during this event was a template for future tournaments.

The selection committee has gone for a nation who has the experience, security nous and facilities already in place to deliver a superb showcase for the sport.

Ireland and France to a certain extent cancelled each other in vision, security concerns and revenue questions. The late entrant to the bidding process came late and pipped both European with a well-planned and focused bid campaign.

Where now for IRFU / Ireland RWC 2023 Bid?

The Ireland RWC 2023 bid is dead despite the musings from the IRFU and the bid team today. 2023 RWC was ambitious given the lack of experience; lessons will need to be learned and infrastructural upgrades in place before another island of Ireland bid are considered again.

IRFU need to showcase World Rugby their ability to run an efficient tournament and the U20’s RWC would be a perfect opportunity to showcase the country with several venues across the country to demonstrate the traits required to run a smooth, efficient competition.

The Women’s RWC was a huge success but the venues were confined, crowd sizes were relatively small; time for the IRFU to look to host other significant World Rugby tournaments in the years to come.

Sevens tournament weekends may be another avenue to impress the powers that be. Every little helps and these tournaments would increase the profile of Ireland to World Rugby and beyond.

Where now for the other non-IRFU stakeholders?

GAA should look to reinvest in regional stadiums, upgrades required to get these venues to modern standards (i.e. internet infrastructure, capacity increases, accessibility) despite the failed RWC bid.

Relevant local councils and corporations need to review traffic control. How to reduce traffic backlogs around sporting stadia? Public transportation was well exposed; the Bus Eireann strike news in recent weeks hardly was good publicity for the bid.

Both the Republic and NI political systems challenge is to improve the infrastructure in every part of this great island. What would a visiting committee member think when having to travel to Killarney where broadband coverage varies depending on the side of the town you are in or going through rush hour traffic in any of city based venues?

Conclusion:

Tough facts outlined on the RWC 2023 Evaluation Report from an Ireland perspective. People of Ireland can call foul on the scoring but Ireland was not ready to host this prestigious event.

Imagine what the island of Ireland could look like in 2023? The Brexit implications could be in full effect. A hard border, customs logistical nightmare scenarios were surely a negative even though the united message from both sides of the border for the bid was emphatic.

The bid team have worked hard on this but the shortcomings were pretty clear today in the evaluation report. We can have no complaints. The failings of the 2017 RWC bid should be strengths for any subsequent future Ireland RWC bid. Time for all stakeholders to invest and improve.

The people of Ireland (both south and north) are waiting, put up or shut up on our ambitions to hold the RWC tournament. Ireland needs to be realistic; there will be no late reprieve. 2023 RWC bid dreams are over and it is time to reflect and improve.