Friday, December 3, 2010

Time to Step up: FIFA did - Can the IRB?

The Groups from France 2007 show countries from across the globe yet all hosts from 1987-2015 are the top two listed in each pool. A pattern that cannot restart after Japan break this trend in 2019. Sitting in third spot in Pool C and Pool D are two countries who should be prioritized as Rugby World Cup hosts - Argentina and Italy. 

Yesterdays decision to award the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia and the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar should send strong messages to the IRB - traditional powerhouses are often expected to win hosting rights. But should they? In a word no. All bidders merit equal treatment and a country that has previously hosted should be considered as a secondary option to one which has never hosted unless the bidder is weak. With this in mind, were the IRB correct to award Rugby World Cup 2015 to England and not Italy?

With Russia hosting in 2018 this means that a European country cannot host the FIFA World Cup again until the year 2030 because of FIFA's confederation elligibility rules which mean that a gap of at least 12 years is required for a region in between hosting FIFA World Cup's. This means that the tradtional hosting region of EU Europe will be wait at least 26 years between hosting with the last host being Germany in 2006. In Rugby the same region has hosted every second Rugby World Cup since its creation and this will continue with England selected for Rugby World Cup 2015. There is nothing wrong with this region hosting. It should host events but, crucially, so should others and if they are capable then they certainly should be given a fair chance of hosting. As it happens, FIFA voted in two new host countries. Neither country qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Italy wanted to host its first ever Rugby World Cup in 2015 but the IRB opted for England who hosted in 1991 and subhosted in 1999.

FIFA World Cup vs Rugby World Cup
1986 Mexico
1990 Italy
1994 United States
1998 France
2002 Japan & South Korea
2006 Germany
2010 South Africa
2014 Brazil
2018 Russia
2022 Qatar
2026 ???

1987 New Zealand
1991 England
1995 South Africa
1999 Wales
2003 Australia
2007 France
2011 New Zealand
2015 England
2019 Japan
2023 ????

Russia is a much better choice as a host nation for the FIFA World Cup than England for one simple reason - it has never hosted but England has. Soccer is a high profile sport in both countries so what exactly would England offer the sport that Russia wouldn´t? Russia is the worlds largest country with a much larger population than England and also all other European bidders. Taking the World Cup there is literally expanding the market. The IRB should follow FIFA. The rotation system of a European host every eight years, whether intentional or coincidental should be addressed. By 2015 Europe will have hosted four of Rugby's eight World Cup's with Wales hosting matches every time. Japan will host in 2019 which will mark the first time a Tri Nations country has not hosted a Rugby World Cup outside of Europe. Japan wanted to host in 2011 and were considered the strongest option yet they missed out as a traditional power got the green light instead with England then recommended and selected as host for 2015 by the IRB.

Soccer is considered the largest sport in the world but it is in no way the only global sport. Rugby is indeed global with strong teams coming from all corners of the world. Unlike soccer, an African side has won the World Cup and done so twice. Two teams from Oceania have won Rugby World Cup's as has a European side. A South American country has finished third. All of this in six tournaments. Soccer cannot compete with this. It fails miserably in comparison with champions only coming from Europe and South America in the nineteen World Cup's in history. Nevertheless, countries outside of these areas including Japan, South Korea, South Africa and the Unites States have hosted and Qatar will host before Argentina will in Rugby despite Argentina being having one of the worlds leading rugby teams and Qatar never having qualified for a FIFA World Cup. Qatar winning the hosting rights fir the 2022 FIFA World Cup has seen FIFA highly criticized and calls of corruption have been vocal and numerous. FIFA has seemingly gone to the highest bidder, or so critics have suggested. Argentina 2023 would be nothing of this sort Argentina have a rich rugby history and arguably have the most passionate international team in the world.

Argentina 2023 looms as a must for rugby. Los Pumas, unlike Russian soccer, are one of the best teams on the planet. The country has the stadiums and the infrastructure and the tradition. Neither Russia nor Qatar can be considered having tradition at the top level of global soccer. In 2023 the Americas are to be the only region to never have hosted a Rugby World Cup and Argentina the only semifinalist to not have hosted.
If previous hosts such as Australia, South Africa or the Celtic Unions bid to host they should be voted down similarly to England in yesterdays vote which recieved only 2 of the 22 votes to receive the fewest first round votes and be eliminated. Argentina 2023 followed by Italy 2027 should be the criteria of the IRB. Two competitive teams who draw strong crowds, are located on separate continents and have never hosted a Rugby World Cup.

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