Christchurch loses Rugby World Cup games
Earthquake-ravaged Christchurch has lost its rights to host seven Rugby World Cup games.
Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully made the announcement this afternoon.
McCully said the two quarter-final matches would go to Auckland and the five pool matches would be divided between other venues. He hoped some of these would remain in the South Island.
The teams that were to have played in Christchurch were Australia, England, Argentina, Italy, Georgia, Scotland and Russia.
Pool matches were scheduled for September 10, 11, 18 and 25, and October 1, while the quarterfinals were to be played on October 8-9.
McCully offered a heartfelt apology to Christchurch residents and Mayor Bob Parker for the decision that had to be made.
He said the damage was just too great for the Government and organisers to be able guarantee the stadium would be ready in time.
The entire playing surface needed to be replaced and the stadium may well not be available for the next Super Rugby season. The Government was stumping up $4.1 million to allow work on the turf to start immediately.
McCully also said there was an issue around finding enough accommodation for fans.
Prime Minister John Key said it had been a difficult decision for the Government and was ''a very sad day'' for Christchurch. But it was ''the only decision available'' in the circumstances.
Labour leader Phil Goff said Key had handled the matter poorly.
"He's ended up giving false expectations that have now been dashed," Goff said.
Key denied that and said Goff was "all over the place" because he had last week been critical of him for releasing other quake information prematurely.
''We've now worked through this process methodically and carefully with the best information as soon as we've had it," Key said.
Advice on accommodation had only become available on Monday and even now there was still evidence that the games could be held.
''But it's a very, very tight timeframe, it's literally one week to spare and I think that's just a risk that's too great," he said.
''No one wants to hold the Cup in Christchurch more than I do, but the reality is that we just can't put at risk the Rugby World Cup and we can't actually risk a bad experience for those coming from overseas.''
Robbie Deans, a former Crusaders, now Wallabies coach, and a favourite Canterbury son expressed disappointment his side would not play two of their pool matches in Christchurch.
"While today's news is disappointing for Christchurch, having been in the city earlier in the week and able to assess the damage for myself, the decision is understandable," said Deans, whose family has a stand named after them at AMI Stadium, in a statement.
"As important as the hosting of the Rugby World Cup is to the people of New Zealand, the people of Christchurch have more important issues to deal with as they endeavour to rebuild their city and their lives after the recent tragedy."
Parker said the city was facing a ''long hard winter'' and had been looking to a brighter spring, when the cup was to be held.
''From my heart I will probably always find this decision hard to accept or agree with at some level. This is an event which is bigger than Christchurch. It's a business opportunity. It's a tourism opportunity.
''I do worry about our businesses. I worry for the people who saw this event as some extra warmth at the end of that cold winter. If I was in their shoes I would find it hard to make any other decision.''
''We want to see all those pool games in the South Island if possible. It's going to be hard for people to travel.''
Also at the announcement at Addington were International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Bernard Lapasset, IRB chief executive Mike Miller, NZ Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew, Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RWC 2011) chief executive Martin Snedden and Brian Pearson, chief executive of AMI Stadium owner Vbase.
Lapasset expressed his sorrow at the decision that was made.
''This has been a hard decision for all involved, given the place of Canterbury in New Zealand Rugby and the tremendous enthusiasm and support that the people of Christchurch have displayed for RWC 2011.
"The thoughts of the global Rugby family continue to be with the people of Christchurch and everyone affected as they focus on the city's rebuilding process and repair of key public services and facilities."
Lapasset said they had "explored every option".
"Unfortunately there is just no guarantee that with 25 weeks till kick off... it would be ready in time."
"To the people of Christchurch, I pledge to you this, we are behind you, you are in our hearts and minds.... Rugby World Cup 2011 will be a success," Lapasset said.
Pearson said on top of turf damage there were structural issues. The main stand had settled by 100mm and the middle part of stand by a further 200mm.
"We are confident we will have the stadium up and running for the 2012 rugby season."
Tew said the NZRU wanted to do everything it could to ensure Christchurch still felt a part of the cup. He hoped people would still use the city as their gateway to the South Island.
Snedden said the decision was supported by all parties, including the IRB, the New Zealand Government, and the NZRU.
He hoped at least three of the pool matches would be kept in the South Island, and a decision on them should be made within two weeks. The quarter-final games, which were already sellouts, would be held on the same dates.
Snedden said the capacity of the stadiums in Hamilton and Dunedin meant they could not hold the quarter-final games there.
Ticket purchasers for all Christchurch matches would be offered the option of a refund or the opportunity to secure tickets to the relevant reallocated matches.
There would be sufficient availability of tickets to rescheduled matches for those wanting to take up that option. Full details will be provided by the end of March. Further information can be found at www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.
MATCHES MOVED FROM CHRISTCHURCH
Pool matches (venues TBC)
Saturday September 10 - Argentina v England
Sunday September 11 - Australia v Italy
Sunday September 18 - England v Georgia
Sunday September 25 - Argentina v Scotland
Sunday October 1 - Australia v Russia
Quarterfinals (moved to Auckland)
Saturday October 8 - Quarterfinal 2
Sunday October 9 - Quarterfinal 4