Monday, March 23, 2015

2023 Bids: How does World rugby announcement place Argentina?

Photo World Rugby
Earlier this month the global governing body of the sport of rugby, World Rugby announced that the host nation of Rugby World Cup 2023 would be confirmed in May 2017. Upon securing hosting rights the host nation will therefore have six years to organize the World Cup making it the same as New Zealand for 2011 and England for 2015. Those interested in hosting have until June 2015 to confirm their interest while World Rugby will release tender documentation in May 2016, a month before countries must confirm their interest in hosting the tournament.  

The announcement comes as positive news to all potential host unions. It clarifies exactly what is required and when so that the individual parties interested in hosting the show piece event can put together their strongest argument as to why they merit being allocated hosting rights ahead of all others.

Despite there being overwhelming similarities between some no two potential host unions could be said to be the same. Previous hosts South Africa are looking to host for a second time while previous sub-hosts, Ireland are looking to host matches during a third Rugby World Cup. Also confirmed, at this stage is Italy while Argentina has voiced interest as have Australia and France. Rounding off the possible bidding parties are the USA and Russia.

Of the eight four are European and six are Northern Hemisphere countries. Of note is that Europe will host in 2019 and Asia in 2019, therein ending the north-south rotation policy which occurred from 1987-2015. Having the World Cup in 2023 staged outside of the Southern Hemisphere would consequently either require significantly strong argumentation or a lack of interest from the south.

The announcement made by World Rugby facilitates the process for all would-be bidders, including Argentina. There is to be a workshop in June 2015 to discuss all aspects of Rugby World Cup hosting.  While it remains unclear as to whether it will be open to members of the media or not it will enable interested unions to all be made privy to what is required of them and a platform will be laid out for unions to argue why they deserve the opportunity to host.

Come May 2017 Argentina will be into it's second year of playing Super Rugby and building towards it's sixth year of international competition in the Rugby Championship. The increased relations the UAR shares with southern unions in addition to the close ties throughout the Americas and on continental Europe firmly suggest that it will be a popular option.

Players and supporters alike speak highly of international rugby in Argentina as they do of the country as a tourist destination. Such factors make Argentina a respectable option. The work of the UAR to stage international matches throughout the country, combined with the natural advantage of having soccer stadiums that have hosted important international competition in recent years, makes Argentina 2023 a compelling option and one hard to argue against.

Over the past decade Argentina has played home internationals in thirteen cities. Such a number is higher than that of the three countries confirmed as bidders for Rugby World Cup 2015. The policy has been based on the UAR not owning a ground and the union being intent on growing the game nation wide. This has seen the capital hosting less often than in the past and non-capped matches played at these and other stadiums.

City
Tests
Buenos Aires
Ten
Córdoba
Four
La Plata
Three
Mar del Plata
One
Mendoza
Four
Posadas
One
Puerto Madryn
One
Resistencia
One
Rosario
Three
Salta
Four
San Juan
Three
Santa Fé
One
Tucumán
Three

Ireland
The first country to confirm it would be bidding was actually two countries - the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The former is a sovereign nation-state while the latter is a part of the U.K. Together they play under the same flag and in rugby are known simply as Ireland.

The Irish bid is offering a World Cup played on the island of Ireland. It is a bid promising to have a significant influx of visitors due to the island's proximity to England, France, Scotland and Wales. The bid is reported to be centred on this geographical factor combined with New Zealand's ability as a small country to host in 2011.

In order to stage the event the union has government backing and permission from the GAA to use six of it's stadiums for the tournament. Reports indicate that rugby grounds likely to be included are in the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Belfast. Joining them will be GAA venues in some, but not all of, Belfast, Castlebar, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Killarney, Limerick and Tipperary.

A fan made image displayed to the right puts forward a suggested stadia list for the tournament. Included are three cities with multiple stadiums, of which one appears to be out of the running. Casement Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland was refused planning permission in December. The venue was expected to join the home of Ulster rugby, Ravenhill as one of two Belfast and Northern Irish venues.

While Ireland has previously hosted Rugby World Cup matches during Rugby World Cups 1991 and 1999 Ireland has never been a solo host. It has, nevertheless, hosted both Quarter Finals and Semi Finals previously unlike Argentina and Italy who would be new hosts altogether. In order to secure hosting Ireland will need to prove it can host without having a sub-host similar to that of Wales in 2015.

Proving that the stadiums exist within the island of Ireland and that they are of adequate standard will be a crucial part of Ireland's bid. In order to do so the existing policy of hosting all home internationals in Dublin needs addressing. Irish Rugby owns 50% of the Aviva Stadium and acts to secure a return on it's investment by playing exclusively at the stadium.

While it was being reconstructed Ireland played home matches at the GAA stadium of Croke Park also located in Dublin. The two venues are likely to be included in the bid while the RDS Stadium is a further possibility to possibly give Dublin three venues. The RDS Stadium hosted a test match v Fiji in 2009 while the only other test outside of Dublin opver the past decade was thst of Ireland v Italy in Belfast in 2007. Dublin has hosted a staggering fifty-two tests out of fifty-four during this period.

City
Tests
Dublin
Fifty-Two
Belfast
One
Limerick
One



South Africa 
For the fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup the 1995 host nation is looking to rugby's biggest event for the second time. Led by 1995 winning captain François Piennar South Africa failed to secure hosting rights to Rugby World Cup 2011 and the union then bid against England and Italy to host in 2015 and against Japan to host in 2019.

Central to the 2011 bid was the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Piennar argued that South Africa would have one big party using the same stadiums already having been constructed for soccer's World Cup. The suggestion was not popular as South Africa's bid was overlooked in favor of both Japan and New Zealand in the first round.

Rugby World Cup Ltd recommended England and Japan as the hosts for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups and the World Rugby Council approved both by voting them in as official hosts in 2009. South Africa has since been looking ahead to the next opportunity but this time faces different opposition as multiple first time and returning hosts are interested.

In South Africa's favor is geography, population and rugby excellence. It is a Southern Hemisphere nation and Africa has only had one opportunity compared to Europe which would have a fifth should either Ireland or Italy host in 2023. The country is home to the only team to have won the World Cup both home and away and also in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

The stadiums constructed also make South Africa a compelling option and an argument exists that it has a favorable time zone that should not be overlooked after Japan 2019 will offer unfavorable kick-off times for Europe, Africa and the Americas. Italy and Ireland, however, offer similar time zones while Argentina is unique in offering times which are good for not only Europe, Africa and thew Americas but also Oceania.

South Africa's home record of hosting matches is comparably impressive to that of Ireland during the same period of 2005-present. As shown in the following table a total of ten cities have played host to at least one Springboks test match over the past ten years. Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria have hosted a similar number of matches each with Bloemfontein, East London, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth also being used to a greater extent to Ireland's cities other than Dublin.

City
Tests
Bloemfontein
Four
Cape Town
Eleven
Durban
Ten
East London
Two
Johannesburg
Twelve
Nelspruit
Two
Port Elizabeth
Five
Pretoria
Nine
Rustenberg
One
Witbank
One

Italy
Italy lost out very narrowly to England in it's bid to host Rugby World Cup 2015. Securing only two additional votes England was allocated rights to the tournament with Wales acting as a sub-host. It means that this year's Rugby World Cup will be the third tournament in which England has hosted Rugby World Cup matches and the fourth for Wales. 

After winning England was advised from World Rugby that all matches were expected to be played in England and Wales was not warranted. England though was unable to acquire the use of soccer stadiums for the duration of the tournament and therefore looked west to Cardiff to act as the tournament's supporting stadium to that of Twickenham.

Italy's 2015 bid included the French city of Marseilles. The Stade Veledrome hosted four Rugby World Cup 2007 pool matches and two Quarter Finals. Being located in south eastern France it is accessible from France as if Nice. Neither city, however, should be included in the bid due to the unpopularity of England 2015 having matches beyond English borders.

In order to convince World Rugby and those with votes that it is the best European, and indeed overall, option Italy needs to focus on the values of the sport and future expansion. Having Ireland host would see a return to the home unions and a very similar cultural experience for visitors to that of England and Wales. Italy, in contrast, is not an English-speaking country and has no experience hosting Rugby World Cups whatsoever.

The country has two teams playing in the Pro 12, the same professional competition involving Ireland's four provinces. It is also firmly established in the Six Nations Championship and has defeated all member nations with the exception of England. Italy, nonetheless, is yet to reach the Quarter Finals of a World Cup. Should this change in 2015 then Italy would arguably be Europe's clear top bidder as a future World Cup host.

Indeed Italy's bid significantly has complicated the possibility of Ireland winning the support of those wanting Europe to host the event in 2023. Italy offers new ground and long term gain for the sport unlike Ireland. The rebranding of the IRB to World Rugby brings with it a need to take action to have World Cups played in more places. This alone makes Italy and Argentina the front-runners to host future World Cups.

Italy has a significantly larger population than Ireland and also has many more stadiums to choose from. The list is also less speculative and there is more evidence supporting Italy, South Africa and Argentina as options than Ireland due to the test team playing far more regularly outside of the capital. Rome is the home venue for Six Nations matches but November internationals are moved to a variety of cities, mainly in the north.

A total of nineteen Italian cities have been used by the FIR for home internationals over the past decade. Of these Rome is alone in having hosted three or move. Ascoli Piceno, Florence, Genoa, Padova and Torino have hosted two tests each during this period while the remaining thirteen cities have hosted just once. The detailed list indicates that identifying stadiums for an Italian bid will not be challenging nor require the use of multiple stadiums in the same city.

City
Tests
Ascoli Piceno
Two
Brescia
One
Cesana
One
Cremona
One
Florence
Two
Fontanafredda
One
Genoa
Two
L’Aquila
One
Milan
One
Modena
One
Monza
One
Padova
Two
Prato
One
Reggio Emilia
One
Rome
Thirty-One
St Vincent Aosta
One
Torino
Two
Udine
One
Verona
One

6 comments:

  1. I don't believe Ireland has hosted a semifinal. The thing that apparently is stopping Ireland playing games away from Aviva is the contract between the IRFU & Aviva states any Ireland home games must for the period of the current contract must not be played anywhere else. I think an Ireland XV played Fiji a couple of years ago in Limerick (?) and the fact it was officially an Ireland XV was to circumvent the contract rule (There were also strong suggestions in some quarters that it meant Ireland didn't play a potential banana-skin game just when the RWC2015 rankings to decide the bands for the event draw were being decided).

    The stadiums are of course a very important part of the bid but I want to make the big point they are only one of a number of areas that WR will look at when deciding who hosts 2023RWC. There's also security, an area both Argentina and RSA will have some explaining to do to overcome some negative reps despite your "Argentina is a popular tourist area" (so are all the others). A young NZ tourist in Argentina was shot in a park last year and that was reported widely here. So was the fact two members of the ABs management team were robbed the first time the ABs visited Argentina for the RC. Of course RSA has one of the worst serious crime rates in the world. Also there's internal transport infrastructure for getting teams and hordes of fans around. Aerolineas Argentinas doesn't exactly have a fantastic rep and twice Argentinian govts have suspended plans for high speed rail. Also accommodation infrastructure. Broadcasting and timezones is another - you touched on that. When it comes to stadia, I hope there have been lessons learnt from 2015 and WR makes it mandatory that all stadia in a bid are locked in when the unions go to Dublin in 2017. And the other area that should be a WR requirement after the crap that's happened with 2015 is that it should be mandatory in bids to have host country govt agreement to make legislation outlawing illegal reselling on third party websites. The failure of WR to make this a requirement for 2015 unlike FIFA and the IOC has meant that many fans in the UK & worldwide have been denied the chance to buy tickets at face value after the UK govt declined to create legislation and left the local RWC2015 organisers high and dry in any effort to block illegal resale websites buying huge chunks of tickets and reselling them far above the face value.

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    1. All points that will need to be addressed.

      Regarding safety Juan Leguizamón had his shirt stolen from his hotel in New Zealand during RWC 2011. Argentina is a lot safer than 2014 FIFA hosts Brazil and far easier to get around. Accomodation is very affordable and fits all budgets.

      Rugby World Cup 1991 Semi Final in Ireland Full Match:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nubSVdwCPRA

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    2. My bad, Of course no AB fan would want to remember that game! The boy in Argentina was not only shot, he was killed. Slightly more serious than having one's shirt robbed. While like any country, NZ has some petty crime, it's not even comparable to the rep Argentina has in that dept.

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  2. The point I make about internal transport infrastructure is also an incredibly important one. The bigger countries like RSA and Argentina arguably have a tougher road to convince WR than a compact host like Ireland where the distances will be small and teams and fans will be able to travel easily around the RWC venues. While Italy is also long it has far better transport infrastructure than both RSA and Argentina. It's not just transport, it's other infrastructure like energy too. RSA is apparently having increasing blackouts, and Buenos Aires I know you to suffer them them or brownouts though I don't know what things are like currently.

    Big event experience will I'm sure also carry some weight with WR in deciding the host. ARG has hosted the football WC and more recently the Copa Americas Championship, as well as RC games. RSA has of course also hosted a number of events and annual rugby games but there needs to be some scrutiny of their performance. The 2009 Lions tour was not successfully handled and the 2010 FIFA WC was possibly the least successful FIFA WC in recent times with a significant number of pool games far from full. This raises questions over the nation's ability to host big events well IMO. Italy has hosted 6N and other big games without problems and a FIFA WC so they are proven. Ireland while having hosted 6N games and parts of RWCs hasn't hosted a similarly large sporting event on its own and I think they actually have the biggest question mark hanging over them when it comes to experience. Even NZ has apart from the RWC, hosted Commonwealth Games, Cricket WCs, and FIFA age grade WCs etc. Ireland to my knowledge hasn't.

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  3. The other thing I'm surprised you haven't raised on your blog was the announcement by current WR CEO Brett Gosper that WR is looking at a twenty-four team event. I think the fact he had a press release on this not long after the RWC2023 bid process was announced was a clear sign to potential bidders that WR is expecting 2023 potential hosts to bid with a twenty-four team event format. Therefore potential hosts probably need to anticipate higher hosting costs in 2023 around an expansion of teams. The ability to cover such added costs and possibly added infrastructure requirements may have a bearing on who gets chosen as well though hopefully an expension of teams will mean a format which will require only four more games than is currently the case.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks again. Time restraints have held me back. I plan to write on this issue in depth next week.

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