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World in union | The race to host Rugby World Cup 2023: France

The candidates for the 2023 Rugby World Cup: France

France 2023 believes that the country’s rich heritage as a host of major events will put it in pole position in the race to land rugby union’s biggest tournament in 2023.

Over the past decade alone there have been 21 international championships staged in France, attracting some 15,000 athletes from nearly 150 nations, as well as seven million spectators.

Between now and 2019 the country will stage four major events per year, while France also has four ongoing candidacies for the period from 2022 to 2025.

“France has opted for a hosting strategy of large international events,” Claude Atcher, the head of France 2023, tells SportBusiness International.

Hosting heritage

The 2007 Rugby World Cup in France is still fondly remembered as a well-organised tournament. In addition, major events are commonplace in the country.

With Paris having been awarded the hosting rights for the 2024 summer Olympic Games, there has been plenty of debate over whether having the Rugby World Cup in the same country just one year earlier would be a positive or negative thing.

“Other countries have also organised major international sporting events over close periods of time,” adds Atcher, before turning his attention to France and highlighting the close proximity on the calendar between the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 and the Uefa Euro 2016 football tournament.

“A nation like France and a city such as Paris are able to host several major international events per year, and have already done so.”

With reference to the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup, Atcher believes that the two events complement each other, as evidenced by the support shown by Paris 2024 to France 2023.

“The objective is to coordinate between the two projects in order to make each one even more powerful,” he says.

“This is why Paris 2024 is committed to setting up an organised and regular working group to outline all the synergies between the two tournaments, and to develop and  leverage opportunities in favour of the two projects.”


The synergies, according to Atcher, will focus on integrating France 2023 into the Paris 2024 heritage programme, making the most of the investments and improvements for the Games, such as stadia, transport, accessibility and fan zones, and participating in the “actions and mechanisms” featuring various stakeholders.  

As an example of the “legacy” initiatives Atcher says can exist between the two events, he highlights how France 2023 will need 6,000 volunteers, while Paris 2024 will require 70,000. “The combined system will facilitate recruitment,” he adds.

“Should Paris welcome the Olympics in 2024, France 2023 will be a life-size demonstration of French know-how and our ability to deliver on these types of projects.

"Everything will have to happen flawlessly in order to demonstrate the quality of organisation for the Games, in terms of reception, security, protection of commercial rights and so on.”

According to France 2023, 84 per cent of the French population support the bid for the Rugby World Cup, with 37 per cent considering it to be “a very good idea”.

Twenty-six per cent of those polled would want to participate in the event as volunteers, including 41 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, with 25 per cent saying that they would like to attend games during the tournament.


From a commercial perspective, more than 20 French companies have already expressed an interest in participating in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in the country.

With all of the proposed stadia being located within two hours of Paris by train, the bid team is also anticipating full venues.

Some 2.4 million tickets and 336,000 hospitality packages could be available, with eight of the nine proposed stadia having been renovated for Euro 2016.

France 2023 anticipates that about €477m ($570m) would be generated – €373m through ticket sales, €90m from public contributions and €14m from other sales. Total costs, including the hosting fee, is expected to be €409m.

Hosting the tournament would generate a profit of €68m, according to France 2023, with the popularity of the French media market ensuring a further €207.5m in indirect revenue, including €172.5m in media rights and €35m in international partnerships.

IMAGE: The 59,300-capacity Groupama Stadium in Lyon

The French government has guaranteed to underwrite the tournament fees, with an extra €106m to be provided for security.

In terms of infrastructure and the experience of hosting more international tourists than any other country worldwide – 82.6 million last year – France is well equipped, with 13,000 hotels and 550,000 hotel rooms available.

Eighteen match-day hotels and 44 base camps have already been scouted for the teams participating in the tournament – 16 in city centres, 10 just outside cities, six on the coast, six in the countryside and two in the mountains.


Proposed activations around the Rugby World Cup, with a view to establishing positive legacies beyond the conclusion of the tournament, are also appealing, Atcher adds.

During the competition eliminated national teams would be invited to stay in France until the final, while regional associations, national unions and government bodies would work in collaboration with the French regional leagues, clubs and public authorities to establish a ‘rugby house’ reception facility.

The volunteer programme could be extended to national rugby unions, Atcher says, with curricula being developed for school and university students on an international basis, allowing foreigners to experience the excitement of the tournament first hand.

In an effort to put in place a more dynamic legacy programme, the French Federation of Rugby would host technical representatives from national unions at special workshops to pass on best practice, with the added benefit of establishing fruitful partnerships between clubs and organisations.

“The French National Training Centre would also become an international rugby campus for six years, hosting teams, referees, coaches, managers from national unions and participation in rugby-specific programmes in France,” Atcher says.

Having secured the 2024 Olympics, France is clearly not ready to drop the ball in its bid for the 2023 rugby union showpiece.

Further reading

This article features in the World Class Sports Hosts supplement which appeared in this month's SportBusiness International magazine

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