Monday, November 24, 2014

RWC in Argentina will not result in Abandoned Sports Stadiums

Copa América 2011 Host Venues
One of the crucial questions of hosting a Rugby World Cup is whether or not a host nation has the required stadiums to do so. Since the current format was established for Rugby World Cup 2003 the tournaments have utilized either eleven or thirteen stadiums. A host nation ought to be able to provide a comparable number and do so by distributing matches to different cities around the country. Compared to host nations during this period Argentina has appropriate venues in place now and, as such, will not need to invest much funding into constructing new or upgrading existing stadiums. Rugby World Cup 2023 in Argentina would not result in abandoned stadiums.

FIFA is notorious for making big, outrageous demands on host nations. The most recent edition of the FIFA World Cup, Brazil 2014, utilized a total of twelve stadiums spread around the country. Of the twelve not one was acceptable by FIFA standards when Brazil won the right to host the event. As such saw twelve venues were either being built from scratch or had to be significantly upgraded.

With a required seating capacity of no smaller than 40,000 many stadiums now remain unused in Brazil, despite the World Cup having just been played several months ago. Venues in the cities of Brasilia, Cuíaba, Fortaleza, Manuaus and Natal do not have a team in the country's twenty-team domestic soccer competition, the Brasileirão and many also lack a team in the second division.

The long-term sustainability of many of Brazil's soccer stadiums is therefore placed in extreme doubt. Brazil is far from being alone with South Africa 2010 demonstrating how not to host a tournament in a cost-effective manner. Rather than utilizing rugby specific venues as much as possible FIFA convinced local authorities to construct new stadiums in cities that simply did not require them. 

Instead of utilizing the 51,000 capacity Newlands in Cape Town a new 61,000 venue was constructed overlooking the waterfront with a FIFA delegate reportedly saying ''a billion television viewers don't want to see shacks and poverty.'' The result, for Cape Town, is one stadium more than the city needs and decades of public spending lost to the needs of the local population.

Japan and South Korea's co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup falls into the same category with numerous stadiums having had little to no use in the years since the tournament. Rugby lacks the drastic requirements of FIFA with has enabled England 2015 to utilize small venues in Exeter and Gloucester. Both are to host more matches than the much larger stadiums in Leeds and Manchester. 

In 2011 New Zealand had venues seating, often much, less than 25,000 spectators in the cities of Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Whangarei. The upgrading of Napier's McLean Park was sufficient for it to host an All Blacks test in 2014 but the stadium capacity remained far lower than 40,000.

Despite being small many venues did not recover the money spent on them prior to the tournament but they were a crucial part of New Zealand being able to host the event. Stadiums in Auckland, Dunedin, Hamilton, Nelson, North Harbour and elsewhere instaled temporary seating for the event. The cost-effective measure is far more sustainable than the demands of FIFA and it, ultimately, meant the loss suffered in hosting the World Cup was extremely minimal for New Zealand when compared to Japan, South Korea, South Africa and Brazil.

With New Zealand having five Super Rugby franchises over half of the venues do not regularly receive either Super Rugby or All Blacks matches. While they are not abandoned compared to Brasilia's Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha they, nonetheless, do not have permanent tenants able to attract fullhouses. Of the venues all were upgraded in the years either ahead of the 2003 or 2011 World Cups. 

Argentina has a population ten times greater than New Zealand. With 43 million there are much larger cities to be found in Argentina than in New Zealand. There are also much larger stadiums, most of which, are already of a sufficient standard to qualify as being equal or superior to venues used in New Zealand 2011. 

The eight cities which hosted the 2011 Copa América soccer competition featured upgraded or new stadiums and, crucially, all are cities which have played host to Los Pumas matches. Other venues can be found to such an extent that minor not major upgrading would be the norm across most Argentine stadiums considered to host World Cup matches should Argentina 2023 eventuate. 

There are some exceptions with the rugby strong-hold of Tucumán being a case in point. With work being required the UAR has not allocated the Estadio Monumental José Fierro a Rugby Championship test too date. The stadium certainly requires upgrading to match the numerous options which exist in not only nearby in Salta and Jujuy but also in the likes of Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Resistencia, Rosario, San Juan, Santa Fé and Greater Buenos Aires.

The Estadio Monumental José Fierro suffers from having soccer tenants utilizing the venue throughout the year. An upgrade would not be cheap but with the benefit of time there is every reason to believe it could be adequately upgraded in a cost-effective manner to give the city a stadium comparable to Le Stadium in Toulouse.

Tucumán has been widely speculated as the ideal home for a second Argentine Super Rugby team. The Pampas XV will enter in 2016 and be based in Buenos Aires while, overtime, it is desired that a second team can be added. A new or upgraded stadium in Tucumán would, in other words, not be left with an underused or non-used stadium after the tournament. The city would also become a certainty to regularly host Rugby Championship matches.  

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