HomeNewsBusinessRugby UnionFrance

French 2023 World Cup would save rugby, says bid leader

Claude Atcher, the director of France’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, has said that if the country is awarded hosting rights to the national team tournament the financial benefits will help ensure the longevity of rugby union as a professional sport.

Last month, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) presented World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, with almost £500m (€564.4m/$677.2m) in financial guarantees for its bid and will make a presentation to the voting unions next week.

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa to stage the showpiece event, with World Rugby scheduled to announce the host country on November 15 this year.

The country that secures hosting rights will have to pay World Rugby £120m for the privilege to stage the tournament. The FFR last month presented World Rugby with more than €400m ($465.7m) of “firm, unconditional and irrevocable” financial guarantees for its bid.

The guarantees are split into two parts, with the first, underwritten by the French state, being for €171m. The FFR said this is greater than the sum expected by rugby union’s world governing body and will largely be covered by its projections of €477m in revenue generated by the tournament.

The FFR said the second financial guarantee is provided by a “major French private bank” to cover commitments on organising costs of the tournament. This amounts to €236m and UK newspaper The Guardian said it will be provided by Société Générale. In addition, The Guardian says France intends to purchase the tournament’s commercial rights for hospitality and marketing from World Rugby for €112m.

Atcher said that with these financial guarantees, the French bid would provide World Rugby with £350m for reinvestment, thus freeing up the funds needed to ensure rugby union retains its position in global sport.  

“If we don’t do anything, in five to 10 years you will have two, three to four teams on the same level and that’s all, and I think rugby will die,” Atcher said, according to The Guardian. “If you are looking at New Zealand, the best team in the world, their financial report in June showed they lost €3m. South Africa, they lost €2m. Australia, they have a lot of issues with structure, teams, players and financially.

“Italy’s financial report in June showed that they lost £2m. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are not losing money but they are balanced in terms of budget. The only unions with a profit are England and France.

“If we are awarded the World Cup it will accelerate our political changes with the professional championship (Top 14) in France. If we don’t change the rules in five years or 10 years, all South African, Australian and New Zealand players will play in France, in England.”

Atcher added: “The best players are not playing for the national team so the results are not as expected by the unions, so it’s very damaging. If you look at the English Premier League in football, it’s exactly the same situation. All clubs are using foreign players and the results of England’s national team are the same as the French rugby team and we have to change that.”