Article by Brian Hayes MEP which was published in the Dublin Gazette 5th June 2015
In December, the Government together with the Northern Irish Executive came together with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to launch Ireland’s official bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup on an all island basis.
Earlier this year, the same three parties came together again to launch Ireland’s bid to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August 2017 and we were successful.
In both bids, Dublin plays a central role. In terms of the 2017 bid, all group games to be held in University College Dublin before the knockout stages move north for the semi-finals at Queen’s University Belfast and the final at Ulster’s newly redeveloped Kingspan stadium.
In terms of the 2023 bids, 12 stadiums have been identified as likely venues for the tournament’s matches with Croke Park, the Aviva Stadium and the RDS all attracting games to Dublin. Indeed the key knock out games including the final will be played in the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park.
For many reasons Dublin is a focal point, not just for Irish rugby, but for the game globally. The game’s governing body, World Rugby – formerly the International Rugby Board, have been based in Dublin since 1998. Both the Six Nations and the Pro 12 are run from Dublin while the vast majority of operations for the European Champions Cup are also run out of Dublin as the predecessor to this, the ERC, was based here.
The IRFU’s bid teams for both tournaments have been working strenuously over the past number of months to prepare the best possible bid for World Rugby’s executive to consider. Former International, Hugo MacNeill is heading up the bid for the 2023 World Cup while other former players such as Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll have weighed in to support.
Both bids will require investment from the Government including the redevelopment of the RDS to modernise it and increase its capacity. But beyond the stadia, the Government has already invested heavily through sports capital grants in rugby clubs across the country that will play their part in the bid as training venues and team bases, Changing rooms, floodlights, gyms and artificial pitches will all be constructed in the immediate future. These will be of huge benefit to the bid process but will also be of long term benefit to the sport of rugby in the wider community.
At the moment Ireland takes in about €50 million every year in revenue from sports tourism, the 2023 World Cup alone could be worth up to €1 billion in sports tourism revenue. This is not an insignificant amount, the expectation is that the 2023 World Cup would attract up to 350,000 visitors, the vast majority of whom will arrive to Ireland via Dublin Airport.
The 2023 event would have an accumulative TV audience of over four billion people. The marketing potential from that alone would be worth the investment and generate a huge number of first time and repeat visitors subsequently to Ireland.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimated that the two Six Nations matches held in Dublin during 2015 were worth €40 million to the local economy. A study by RBS following the 2014 tournament estimated that the Six Nations generates 200 year-long jobs in Dublin and 400 jobs in Ireland.
In the past decade international sporting events such as the Special Olympics World Games (2003), Volvo Ocean Race (2009 & 2012), Tall Ships Race (2005, 2011 & 2012) and most notably the Ryder Cup (2006) have been held in Ireland. We have a proud history of hosting major international sporting events with the Dublin horse Show and Irish Open in golf being annual attractions. However, it is obvious that there is a limit to our potential. Ireland is not going to host a football world cup and as my predecessor in the European Parliament, Gay Mitchell, found out when he was Lord Mayor of Dublin; Dublin will never host the Olympics either.
However, the bid to host the 2017 and 2023 World Cups is rooted in realism, it would be a huge boost for Ireland in terms of morale and national pride but crucially it would be a massive economic shot in the arm, one that is set to benefit Dublin in particular.