There is no risk in Ireland's record World Cup bid, says IRFU chief
The 2023 Rugby World Cup host favourites Ireland are confident that the awarding process won't be undermined by a Fifa-style "dirty tricks" campaign.
And they promised that their bid will provide a record financial bonanza for the competition that forms the vast majority of the sport's revenues at every four-year cycle.
"I have great faith and greater faith in rugby that it is not going to fall into that trap in my view," declared IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne after his bid team delivered their final presentation, described as a "peak performance" by bid ambassador, former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll.
"Rugby is above that, the majority of the rugby unions in the world are above that and I have great faith in the process."
World Rugby have attempted to introduce greater transparency by using a sports consultancy firm to assess bids from Ireland, South Africa and France before a nominee is recommended on October 31, with the final vote on November 15.
Historically, horse-trading has been rife, and even Ireland were accused of switching their allegiance at the last minute from South Africa to New Zealand in 2005, allegedly after being promised a home game against the All Blacks, albeit the precise details were never proven.
Ireland’s bid team, which was joined yesterday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and included former Ireland captain O’Driscoll, have promised record revenues for the governing body.
“We have a very exciting commercial programme put together, effectively global but one anchored out of Ireland using the diaspora and the multi-nationals in Ireland who all want to be involved,” explained Browne.
“It is a pretty exciting commercial programme which can deliver multiples of what England delivered in 2015. So this is going to be a world record financial bid.”
France and South Africa have also promised record revenues, naturally, and, unlike Ireland, have also upped the financial ante by hiking up the minimum government guarantee from £120m to £150m and £160m respectively.
However, Browne stressed that, although they remained confident of securing the best possible financial package for World Rugby, they would not be drawn into a bidding war, despite the fact they are competing against two sporting heavyweights with long-standing experience of hosting major world events.
“No, it’s about the quality of the money,” he stressed.
“And there is no risk. There is no risk attached. This money is bankable. Rugby World Cup know exactly how much our bid is going to generate and there is no risk.
“And equally, they have said there should be no risk to Irish Rugby or to the host Union. Because the competition has got so large now there is real potential for a host Union to be tipped over if it doesn’t go right. The IRFU and Irish Rugby is not exposed in any way financially.”
While the IRFU are confident that they can overcome most infrastructural issues — they are implementing a process to ensure hoteliers do not fleece customers, for example — the relatively limited capacity of stadia has also been something of a concern.
“The fact if the matter is that it’s not about having the biggest stadia,” he insisted.
“It is about having the right mix of stadia because there are certain matches you don’t need a 70,000 capacity stadium for.
“What Rugby World Cup want is a smaller stadium. They don’t want a half-empty stadium. And so we have an ideal mix in terms of size and location around the country that actually allows us to say with great certainty that these stadia will be full.”