IRFU chief underlines importance of the GAA to 2023 World Cup bid

Home / IRFU chief underlines importance of the GAA to 2023 World Cup bid

IRFU CHIEF EXECUTIVE Philip Browne has admitted that the hard work starts now for Ireland after this morning’s formal launch of the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Browne also underlined the importance of the GAA’s support, with several of the organisation’s stadia set to be used if Ireland wins the bidding process.

A figure in the region of €1.5million will be invested into the campaign to bring the global tournament to these shores, with the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive offering their full support.

If Ireland’s cross-border bid proves successful, it is believed a fee in excess of €130million would have to be paid to Rugby World Cup, the organisation which oversees the competition, as a guarantee.

Invitations to officially bid to host the tournament are likely to be distributed in 2016, following what Browne calls an “an informal process” with World Rugby [formerly the IRB] next year.

A decision on the hosting of the 2023 World Cup will be made by World Rugby in 2017.

Speaking this morning at the Royal School in Armagh City, Browne admitted that this project is among the most monumental the IRFU has ever undertaken.

“I think it’s got to be up there. Certainly building the Aviva Stadium with the FAI was a big project, but this is a very, very significant project.

“We’ve entered the whole project with serious intent and what’s fantastic to see is the two governments standing so closely behind us. That really does show the intent of the island of Ireland in relation to this.

(L-R) Martin McGuinness, Peter Robinson, Philip Browne, Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Louis Magee. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“So, yes, it’s a huge thing for the island, it’s a huge thing for rugby. Having got it to this stage, it’s about putting in the hard work to make sure we win.”

Browne pointed to South Africa, Italy, Argentina and “maybe” France and the USA as serious competitors in the process, indicating that the IRFU are under no illusions as to how strong their own bid will need to be.

That said, the Browne is confident in what Ireland has to offer. While some stadiums will have to be redeveloped or upgraded as part of the campaign, the IRFU man says the GAA’s involvement is important.

“The tourism infrastructure – there’s no problem with that. So we have all the elements to make this work.”

Browne indicated that the list of stadiums that will be submitted as part of Ireland’s bid has not been finalised, although it is believed Croke Park, the Gaelic Grounds, Casement Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Fitzgerald Stadium will be central alongside rugby stadiums such as Thomond Park, Lansdowne Road and the RDS.

“Effectively, we looked at a good number of GAA stadia, but we don’t have to finalise that at this point in time,” said Browne. “I think the issue is that the GAA stadium is a certain size.

Enda Kenny was on hand to give Robbie Henshaw a few pointers about playing at 13. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“About 80% of the ticket revenues are generated on the back of the 16 biggest matches [in a World Cup], so you need to have a stadium of a certain size to capture that revenue. Equally, it’s important that we spread the matches around the country and that we do it in such a way that there’s a tourism benefit.

“So we have a good narrative there as well in terms of bringing visitors around to country from Belfast, down through Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Galway, why not Mayo? But we haven’t decided all that and that’s where the hard work starts now, digging into the detail.”

Indeed, concrete detail was in short supply at the Armagh launch this morning, with Browne insisting that will come as the working group for the bid makes progress.

The IRFU will certainly not be looking to bring nations outside of the island of Ireland into their bid. Browne underlined that the central narrative to the campaign was the joining together of Ireland, North and South.

“I think to move matches out of Ireland would certainly dilute all of that. The key thing is that the bid has to stand up technically. One assumes that any bid for a Rugby World Cup will stand up technically.

“The point of difference is the narrative that you can weave behind the bid. I think our narrative is really good and it’s a really important narrative for the island and the people of Ireland.”

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