High stakes at play in RWC

2014-09-16 20:18
RWC 2015 (Getty Images)

London - England fans will have great hopes when the country stages the 2015 World Cup in a year's time.

But they will not be alone, with rugby officials hoping the fact many of the key behind-the-scenes staff at the widely-praised London 2012 Olympic Games, including England Rugby 2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans, are now running their showpiece event will produce a financial as well as sporting dividend.

Already the International Rugby Board (IRB) has estimated that the 2015 World Cup will probably make £150 million, a 60 percent increase from the 2011 edition in New Zealand, which although it is the home of the reigning world champions and more of a 'rugby mad' nation than England, has access to a much less lucrative commercial market.

Officials now expect the 2015 edition to be the most profitable World Cup of all time, topping the £122.4m surplus from the 2007 event in France.

"We are fortunate in having a country that has already staged a Rugby World Cup and recently organised an Olympic Games stage the 2015 World Cup," IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset told AFP in an interview.

The Frenchman added: "A British friend of mine joked to me that their model is France 2007 but with a 10 percent decrease in costs and a 10 percent increase in revenue."

However, as with many major sporting events questions remain regarding ticket availability and price.

England 2015 are pledged to deliver at least £80 million in revenue to the IRB, for whom the World Cup provides some 95 percent of their income.

This effectively means they have to sell 2.9 million tickets across the 48 games of the tournament as a whole.

That explains why one of the great traditional club rugby grounds of England, Leicester's Welford Road, has been overlooked in favour of the larger capacity stadium of Leicester City football club.

It also underlines why Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which can seat more than 75 000 and whose retractable roof is a guarantee of play, has been allocated eight matches, including two quarter-finals, even though it is in Wales.

But while Wales are in the same pool as England and Australia -- the so-called 'group of death' -- from which only two can qualify for the knockout stages, the key fixtures between the teams will all take place at London's Twickenham, rather than in Cardiff.

According to figures published Monday on the official ticketing website, 30 of the 48 games in 13 stadiums across 11 cities are set to be over subscribed and requiring a ballot.

But of the 18 labelled as unlikely to be balloted, seven are being staged at the Millennium Stadium.

Prices for adults range from £15 for low-profile group games up to £715 for the most expensive seat for the October 31 final at Twickenham.

One unofficial site was even offering a ticket for the final at £8 870.

"I don't like seeing tickets as commodities, I want to see them getting into the hands of people who want to watch the event," said Jevans.

Of course, there are other measures than the purely financial by which to judge the worth of a sports event and few things succeed in creating a buoyant tournament quite like home success.

"The economics will work wherever England get to," IRB chief executive Brett Gosper told the Guardian.

"But to really get that magical atmosphere and the home population behind it, it would be great for the host side to go all the way."

And for Lapasset, seeing a new country upset the existing elite, as Argentina and Fiji have done at previous World Cups, would also be an important sign of the growth of the global game.

"I would love it if there was a 'surprise' team in the quarter-finals. A team like Georgia, which nearly beat Ireland in 2007," he told AFP.

"They have a great rugby history and culture, and they have produced an enormous number of players for many clubs. They deserve to go to the next level."


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