IRB meets to decide World Cup hosts
Steve Tew and Graham Mourie enjoyed more than the usual lavish hospitality while they were in South Africa last weekend.
Tew, the NZRU chief executive, and board member Mourie, stopped in the republic en route to this week’s crucial IRB meeting in Dublin where rugby’s decision-makers will choose the countries to host the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.
South Africa is in the mix for both events along with Italy and Japan while England is vying for the hosting rights to the 2015 event.
With the Tri-Nations test being played overnight it seemed a natural stopover for New Zealand’s two IRB delegates, giving them the opportunity to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks in Bloemfontein and also to get a first hand look at South Africa’s World Cup proposal.
There will have been no shortage of arm-twisting over the past couple of days because South Africa is up against it. For the first time the IRB has issued recommendations with its preferred choices being England for 2015 and Japan for 2019.
The Asian attraction looks strong and it seems certain that New Zealand and Australia will back Japan’s 2019 bid. Their preference for 2015 is less certain and Tew says he and Mourie have been told to “see what other information we should factor into it before we cast our votes”.
The IRB recommendation is just that – a recommendation, not an order - and a lively debate looms with all four countries having strong claims. If the recommendations are ignored, it’s then an elimination voting process.
New Zealand has to weigh up what’s best for the game and what’s best for a country that is fighting against being overwhelmed by richer rugby nations.
The Japanese equation should satisfy the significant investment New Zealand is placing in Asia with consecutive Bledisloe Cup tests in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Tew believes 2019 is a better fit for the Japanese.
“I think it would be a little more risky to think they could do it by 2015 but certainly a country with the second largest economy in the world is going to be ready to go given 10 years warning,” he told Sunday News.
“We are incredibly supportive of the Japanese intentions around rugby and would see us playing a part in helping them being ready to host a World Cup if indeed they get a nod.”
But as Tew says, “we have some investment and some interests in all four bids really.” That’s what makes the 2015 scenario fascinating.
The seemingly shaky Sanzar alliance could do with the solidarity of backing South Africa. It held arguably the best tournament in 1995, it has the infrastructure of the 2010 football World Cup to flow into and, besides, when South Africa was eliminated from the 2011 hosting rights it put its full weight behind New Zealand’s successful bid, unlike Australia who openly plugged for Japan’s failed attempt. It could be time for some payback.
“South Africa obviously have a pretty credible bid and they are disappointed they haven’t got the (IRB) recommendation so no doubt they will want to talk through that with us,” Tew said of his meetings this weekend, the first opportunity they have had to discuss details.
But New Zealand knows the financial clout of England and has been anxious to tap into that with lucrative revenue-sharing Twickenham tests and Barbarian fixtures. Australia is just as conscious of that.
Then there’s the sponsorship link to Italy through trucking giant Iveco who pump money into the All Blacks and New Zealand’s domestic test programme. Italy have already presented their bid first-hand to the NZRU, something Tew conceded was “credible and appealing”.
Government ministers have been involved in all four bids at IRB level but this meeting is clearly going to be rugby politicking at its very best.
“We have left the final decision to Graham and I as the voting delegates to make when we are up there,” said Tew of the Dublin meeting.
It remains to be seen how the South African hospitality is when they return next weekend to watch the All Blacks-Springboks rematch in Durban. Will it be champagne or warm beer?
WORLD CUP HOSTING DECISION
July 28 is D-Day in Dublin for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups
The IRB will vote on which countries get to host the tournaments, awarding rights to two tournaments for the first time.
Chasing the dream
2015: England, South Africa, Italy, Japan
2019: South Africa, Italy, Japan
Rugby World Cup recommendation
This is the first time guidance is being offered to voters after tenders presented to the IRB council with their bids. The official recommendations are:
How the voting process works
IRB delegates don’t have to follow the RWC recommendation. If they decide against that it then goes to an elimination process. The winning bid must gain 50% of the 28 votes. The lowest polling country for each year drops off until a country has gained the required 50%.
Votes are held by IRB chairman Bernard Lapasette, IRB vice-chairman Bill Beaumont, Australia (2), England (2), France (2), Ireland (2), New Zealand (2), Scotland (2), South Africa (2), Wales (2), Japan, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Oceania, Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America-West Indies.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew and board member Graham Mourie are New Zealand’s two delegates with voting rights.
What’s at stake
Rugby World Cup Ltd is demanding an £80m fee for 2015 and £96m for 2019 (France 2007 and NZ 2011 paid £56m fees)
The tournament is the IRB’s major revenue source for reinvestment in the game.
The host union has to cover all the tournament costs and is dependent on ticket sales to offset the costs.
An independent Deloitte report identified the total economic benefits for the host nation as being up to £2.1 billion. RWC 2007 in France was the most successful - 2.2 million public ticket sales, 100,000 corporate hospitality packages, a global TV audience of over 4 billion and a record net surplus of £122.4m. TV and commercial deals are more valuable if the tournament is played in a time zone suitable for the major European rugby nations.
New Zealand’s forecast for RWC 2011 is a $NZ30m loss.
Previous World Cup allocations
1987: New Zealand
1995: South Africa
2011: New Zealand