Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The IRB Must Implement Continental Confederation Hosting Policy

Argentina is ready to host Rugby World Cup 2023
The host nation of the 2026 and 2030 FIFA World Cups is far from being confirmed but it is known who can and cannot bid. Soccer´s global governing body distributed World Cups according to a Continental Confederation Hosting Policy which means that no FIFA defined region can do what Europe can in rugby - host the World Cup every eight years. With Russia and Qatar hosting in 2018 and 2022 the host nation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup cannot come from either Europe or Asia due to Russia being a member of UEFA (Europe) and Qatar of the AFC (Asia). 

Is such a policy desirable for Rugby? Crucial to considering this is the concept of a World Cup. The organization of a sporting event every four years which brings together the best players from the leading nations is about collectivity. No one region is more important than another. All and competitors are involved in the tournament because, through one way or another, they earned the right through either automatic qualification, regional play-offs or repercharge. 

In an ideal scenario the hosting of the Rugby World Cup would therefore be allocated to different nations and regions as often as possible. Previous hosts would need to make an extremely compelling argument to be more deserving of hosting than an opposition bidder who is yet to host. But a desire to host is not enough a bidder has to demonstrate an ability of doing so. For this reason Argentina and Fiji are vastly different possibilities as the latter lacks the means of hosting. 

Fiji has a highly reputable national team and a history of hosting matches in multiple venues on its side but Argentina has many things that Fiji does not including history of hosting a FIFA World Cup and infrastrucutre such as far more hotels nationwide and an  inter-continental serviceable international airport. New Zealand 2011 showed that a small population can deliver a very good tournament meaning that had Ireland not sub-hosted World Cups previously then it would have just as much of a claim to be Europe´s next host as Italy. 

Is such a policy possible for Rugby? The question is really asking whether Europe can be replaced or not. Does rugby have to have its show-piece even played in the old continent every eight years or are there not only alternative options but ones which can be considered not through speculation but by meeting a broad range of requirements. The IRB requires host nations to have a stadium seating 60,000 spectators to open the tournament and host the final. Otherwise it is very flexable as the significant difference between France´s ten stadiums in 2007 compared to New Zealand´s twelve in 2011 suggest.

New Zealand 2011 can be used as a measuring stick. It utilized mainly small stadiums seating below 25,000 while all of France´s venues seating 32,000 or above. The IRB desires a total number of no fewer than ten stadiums but, unlike FIFA, does not place a maximum number of stadiums per city. FIFA allows one city to have two venues but all other stadiums to be in different cities. In 2015 England will host matches in three London stadiums. 

The IRB has also stated that it does not desire the Rugby World Cup to be co-hosted which is curious due to Europe, specifically the home unions, having been the big winners through co-hosting in 1991, 1999, 2007 and 2015. The IRB was opposed to Wales hosting any matches in Rugby World Cup 2015 but this did not stop Wales being allocated eight matches, including two Quarter Finals. With England 2015 unable to utilize soccer venues with flexibility the organizers made the decision to use the Millennium Stadium in a prominent manner.

Argentina is the clear leading option to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023. It would be the first World Cup in the western hemisphere and see the only Rugby World Cup Semi Finalist yet to host do so. A number of alternative options exist with previous hosts Australia, France, Ireland and South Africa all having it made known that they are interested. Suggestions of Italy, Russia and the USA have also been made meaning that for 2023 Argentina´s competition under a Continental Confederation Hosting Model would all be previous hosts. 

Rugby World Cup 2027 meanwhile could go to any country including the USA which is a part of not NACRA not CONSUR. Europe could host again in 2027 with Italy being a prime contender and like Argentina being the only Tier One rugby nation never to have hosted. Both nations are able to host and efforts ought to arguably be made from the global authority to support this. Put differently, yes, rugby has the means to operate on a Continental Confederation Hosting Model and there is time to change the laws ahead of the start of the bidding process for Rugby World Cup 2023. Is the IRB ready? A failure to do so runs the risk of having Ireland and South Africa allocated hosting rights for 2023 and 2027. Is this what rugby wants?

* A reputable rugby team 
* Current experience in competing at World Cups
* A demonstrated capacity to host a global event
* A minimum of ten host cities with suitable stadiums
* A general distribution of venues nationwide 
* Legacy for the region´s future growth
* Rugby culture to sell the event to locals
* Infrastructure to recieve thousands of visitors

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