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Friday 24 November 2017

IRFU battle back over RWC staging

Browne raises serious questions

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne, bid ambassador Brian O’Driscoll and Chairman of the Bid’s Oversight Board Dick Spring. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne, bid ambassador Brian O’Driscoll and Chairman of the Bid’s Oversight Board Dick Spring. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The Irish Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Officer Philip Browne has fired a studied and stunning shot across the bows of World Rugby.

The apparent death warrant for Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, on the basis of South Africa being recommended as the best candidate, has been set aside as Ireland continues to canvass support around the globe.

They do so on a variety of unresolved issues which they have laid out in a strongly worded letter to Brett Gosper, the World Rugby Chief Executive, sent on Monday.

Critical

While Browne agreed to comply with "the terms of the code of conduct" governing the process, he reserved the right to question critical aspects of the official document, drawn up by an Independent Advisory Group.

Browne went to great pains to encourage World Rugby to broadly confirm "that all Council members are reminded that they may vote for any of the bids".

This comes on foot of the mere suggestion from World Rugby that the Council members "are required to consider" the recommendation which has been portrayed almost as a fait accompli.

The Irish representatives remain frustrated that certain issues raised about the finer details of the recommendation have not been resolved to their satisfaction.

Browne broke it down into four sections in a stinging correspondence.

1 STADIA

The letter raises the "critically important" question of full stadia and how it will lend to the spectacle as a live experience and to all of the broadcast partners.

It points to South Africa's failure to fill their venues at various events, specifically for Super Rugby, as a source of ongoing concern.

In addition, there is disappointment at the fact the detailed weighting system - which was only provided on October 31 - of the recommendation limited the vital ingredient that is 'ticketing' to 4 per cent of the overall scoring.

In addition, all three bids were scored the same, despite the obvious risk to attendances in South Africa and, to a lesser extent, France.

This does seem to fly in the face of common sense.

It is one thing to have large venues; another to fill them.

2 SECURITY

The Irish are unconvinced about the clarity over a thorough investigation, or lack of it, into the security threat posed to the three bids.

This is a delicate matter presumably and partly concerned with the terrorist attacks carried out in France in recent times and the daily dangers apparent in South Africa.

Indeed, it was only last season Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss spoke about the inherent violence in his home country.

3 MAJOR EVENT HOSTING EXPERIENCE

Here, Browne is perplexed at how little significance was given to the stripping of Durban, the third most populous city in South Africa as the host to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The organisers were reduced to this drastic action on the basis obligations to "governance, venues, funding and risk management/assurance" were not met.

There were many promised made and few delivered to bring about an unusual and unwanted move by the Commonwealth Games Federation.

4 FINANCIAL, COMMERICAL AND COMMMITMENTS

There was serious doubt shed on the financial foundation of South Africa's bid.

Of course, the removal of the Commonwealth Games from Durban spills over into this category.

Moreover, Browne pointed to their poor current sovereign rating, defined as 'speculative grade,' commonly known over here as 'junk'.

This is a familiar use of the word, also used to define the state of Ireland's rating during the recession here.

Since then, the recovery of Ireland's economy has been surprisingly rapid.

Maybe, just maybe, the recovery of Ireland's bid might just follow the same path.

Moreover, the letter made a promise of further queries by close of business yesterday as the race for votes on November 15 heats up.

It points to South Africa's failure to fill their venues at various events.

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