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

The candidates for the 2023 Rugby World Cup: Ireland

Ireland is making big promises – including the most significant financial return for World Rugby in the history of the competition – as part of its passionate tilt at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The bid team has tabled an enticing offer that appears to tick all of the boxes, “full of Irish spirit and commercial success,” according to Kevin Potts, the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Rugby World Cup 2023 bid director.

According to Potts, the bid is built on three “clear and unique” pillars.

“First, and really importantly for the fans and players, Ireland 2023 will be a real rugby tournament,” Potts tells SportBusiness International. “We will honour the long tradition of rugby in Ireland, one of the game’s founding unions, and the country that’s home to the highest proportion of rugby fans anywhere on earth.

"We will celebrate our game and its values in authentic venues in real rugby communities, and in stadia in the heart of communities, not out-of-town football grounds. 

“Second, Ireland 2023 will offer certainty. In recent times we’ve seen governing bodies and major events struggle because of broken promises or oversold claims. We guarantee the biggest financial return to World Rugby in the tournament’s history – but that guarantee is based on an underwrite from the Irish government itself.

"The budget has been thoroughly researched and signed off in accordance with World Rugby guidance, with no questions left unresolved. And the logistics of the tournament, from accommodation to training bases and transport, are all world-class – as you’d expect from a country that welcomes 12 million tourists every year.

“Our bid also benefits from being a national priority… and our country’s only major sporting event focus.

“This is a critically important issue; for Ireland, the Rugby World Cup will be THE event and not a warm-up. In Ireland there will be no distraction for the host authorities, sponsors or fans.

“Finally, our third ‘USP’ is perhaps our greatest – and certainly our biggest: the 70 million people of Irish descent who live throughout the world. These 70 million – including 40 million in North America –  are already ambassadors for the country. 

“In 2023, when the island hosts the greatest event in its history, they will also become ambassadors for rugby – and the growth of the game. Ireland 2023 offers both the advantages of a traditional rugby market and the opportunities of a new one, via the Irish abroad – especially in North America.”

Financial impact

The latest figures from the Economic Impact Reports, commissioned by the bid team, demonstrate that the tournament would generate in excess of €800m ($954m) in direct spend by international visitors, with a combined direct and indirect economic impact well in excess of €1.5bn.

Ireland 2023’s organising costs for the tournament, excluding the tournament fee, are projected to be in excess of €200m.

The tournament budget, including the tournament fee, is fully underwritten by the Irish government.

“We anticipate that these organisational costs will be fully funded through the ticket revenues generated from the 48 tournament matches. This was the case with all previous tournaments also,” Potts adds.

“World Rugby has indicated this is their preferred payment mechanism and will eliminate stress on the tournament budget or ticket revenues.”

Necessary legislative changes required to cement the Irish government’s support for the bid passed though the Irish parliament, known as the Dáil, earlier this summer. 

“All is in place from a legislative and political perspective, and this bid has the total support of all major political parties on the island of Ireland,” Potts says.

The Irish government is also working with the UK government to minimise any potential disruption caused by the UK – including Northern Ireland – leaving the European Union in 2019.

“Both the Irish and UK governments are committed to maintaining the existing arrangements, and it is not envisaged there will be any impact on tournament arrangements or that there will be any difference for people travelling across the border,” adds Potts, who says that Ireland 2023 is determined to build bridges through the event, with the bid carrying the strapline ‘A tournament like no other’.

On a divided island, rugby union – unlike other sports – has always brought the different communities together.

“We can already see the extraordinary levels of cooperation which are taking place between the different bodies in the north and south of the island; never before has an event created such a unifying approach,” he says.

“The two governments, the civil service, the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the tourism bodies are all as one in developing plans that would ensure a Rugby World Cup in Ireland would be a massive success.”


Forging stronger relationships abroad as well as at home will be a key target of the bid, with Potts adding that local interest in the tournament will be only part of the story, given the Irish diaspora worldwide.

“Make no mistake about it, a Rugby World Cup would take over Ireland in its entirety; nobody will wonder if the tournament is on here, everyone will be connected and I mean everyone,” Potts says.

“This will manifest itself in the manner in which the tournament reflects, and projects, rugby values out into the world – values of respect, camaraderie, decency and, of course, fun.

"Imagine the TV pictures which would be transmitted from Ireland of rugby fans right in the heart of our towns and cities embraced by the Irish people, enjoying themselves, mixing freely with supporters of other countries in a warm and inclusive environment.

"This is what Ireland can do during the immediacy of the tournament.

“Then you have the global amplifier that is the diaspora, which means that for every Irish person in Ireland there are 12 others worldwide – some 70 million people spread throughout the world and ready to be activated.

"Their influence in North America, whether in boardrooms or communities, is genuinely powerful and we see it as a means for rugby to make further major strides in this the most lucrative sports market in the universe.” 

The venue plan for the tournament will not be finalised for a number of years, but Ireland 2023’s proposed longlist of 12 stadia provides a range of capacities.

“The locations are close to (within walking distance) of city centres and right in the heart of their respective communities,” he says.

Croke Park, the third-largest stadium in Europe, would stage the opening match of the tournament and the final.

“Being given the honour of hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would be a dream come true for the people of Ireland and will see a tournament which will bring rugby to new horizons around the world,” Potts concludes.

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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