Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

GAA backs World Cup rugby bid by opening its grounds

Antrim vs Tyrone at Casement Park, Belfast
Casement Park, Belfast

England's rugby stars could be treading the turf of Casement Park after the GAA voted to allow some of its biggest grounds to be used as part of Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

At a historic vote in Londonderry, some 93% of delegates at the association's annual congress agreed to allow stadiums in Belfast, Dublin, Thurles, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Mayo to be part of a bid worth €250m (£210m) to the all-island economy.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said it was delighted with the decision.

Last month, Ulster GAA revealed major plans for a £78m redevelopment that includes a 38,000 all-seater stadium at Casement Park – three times bigger than Ulster's home at Ravenhill.

A feasibility study of hosting the tournament has been submitted to the Republic's Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and upgrading some grounds would be required for a successful bid, an IRFU spokesman said.

Karl Richardson added: "The next World Cup, in England, is estimated to be worth more than €350m (£300m) to the economy. We might expect lower than that, and an estimate at the moment is around €250m.

"There would have to be capital investment in relation to hospitality and media facilities, but it would not require all-seater stadiums."

On Saturday, 350 delegates voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of the 82,000-capacity Croke Park and other grounds for games in the Rugby World Cup 2023 or 2027, if a bid is successful.

Other grounds covered by the vote include Semple Stadium in Thurles (53,500), the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick (50,000), Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork (43,500), McHale Park in Castlebar (38,000), Pearse Stadium in Galway (34,000) and Casement Park in Belfast (32,500).

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