In September, the Ministry of Sports & Recreation South Africa arrived in London with SA Rugby to make a compelling bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. But the journey began much earlier than that and the first step on that course was to align our aspirations for transformation inthe sport. Those shared aspirations are captured in a memorandum of understanding between my department and rugby.
In May, I was pleased to be able to announce that SA Rugby had achieved the targets we had agreed in the latest transformation report by the Eminent Persons’ Group, clearing the way for us to partner with rugby in this critically important campaign to bring the Rugby World Cup to South Africa. The fruits of rugby’s labours in terms of transformation are all around us as the game’s professional demographic profile continues to evolve. All national teams are achieving their targets and we will remain vigilant in this process.
Winning the 2023 World Cup bid is important for South Africa. Hosting the tournament will leave a powerful sporting legacy and it will also bring benefits to the country and its people that extend far beyond sport. Government provided the required financial guarantees, because this bid is different from those for events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup or the Commonwealth Games.
It is, above all, an economic bid. There will be no cost escalations or requirements for Treasury to find more money. We know exactly what the guarantees are and have confirmed the returns. South African Rugby commissioned Auditors, Grant Thornton, to study what economic benefits hosting the tournament would bring the country. At Government’s request, the conclusions in its report have been independently verified.
It shows that hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup will deliver R27.3 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact. There will be 38 600 temporary jobs created or permanent jobs sustained. It will bring R11 billion in direct spend and R1.4 billion in taxes. Of this, R5.7 billion will flow to low-income households. Some 200 000 tourists will visit South Africa. While the economic case was Government’s primary reason for agreeing to back the bid, it is not the only way the country will benefit.
The international exposure will boost tourism before and after the tournament. The volunteer programme will deliver a considerable social legacy through skills transfer. Observer programmes within the local organising committee will enhance the knowledge and ethos of future sports administrators. In addition, South African Rugby has committed to investing a proportion of the profits in sports development - not just in rugby, but in all sports.
Importantly, as we’ve experienced before, the 2023 Rugby World Cup will serve as a rallying point for the nation and inspire a new generation of sports men and women. The Rugby World Cup is the only major international event which South Africa will host for the next 20 years. It will benefit all South Africans by contributing to our economy, strengthening our sports and building the nation. It is why we should all back the bid.
In securing the tournament we believe we have a number of advantages over our rivals, Ireland and France, which have been highlighted in the Evaluation Report of World Rugby’s Technical Team. They have confirmed our claim that South Africa will deliver the very best outcome for rugby. Unlike the northern hemisphere countries which will be going into winter, our spring provides the perfect climate for a showcase of fast, running rugby.
Of course, our operational excellence in hosting large events extends beyond broadcasting the matches. We gained vast experience during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, 2003 Cricket World Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup and this will be further honed when we deliver the British and Irish Lions tour in 2021. All this expertise will be focused entirely on delivering the best Rugby World Cup ever, with no distractions from hosting other major global events.
One of our most important advantages, for both World Rugby and the fans, is the relative cost differentiation between South Africa and Europe. Simply put, it will cost considerably less for us to deliver the tournament here than it would in Europe. By way of example, broadcast costs in South Africa are about 66% lower. Similarly, an average hotel room in Cape Town or Johannesburg costs considerably less than the equivalent in Dublin or Paris and, in most cases, is larger and better appointed.
It is also why South Africa is an attractive option for fans. As we’ve seen in other sports tournaments many come for the matches and then stay on to experience our game parks and beaches. They’re able to do so because their pounds, euros and dollars go further. Business Insider’s ‘beer index’ shows a beer in Paris costs the equivalent of US$7, in Dublin it’s US$6.5. Compare this to Cape Town where it’s US$2.20 and Johannesburg where the average pint will set you back just US$1.70. The point is that we’ll be able to host a quality tournament at a fraction of what it will cost our European counterparts. Lower costs mean more profit and a better deal for fans. Every aspect of the tournament has been carefully budgeted and the commercial case is sound.
The compelling and detailed nature of our bid was recognised by World Rugby and the game’s leadership in their unanimous recommendation of South Africa as the best candidate to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Since then there has been some commentary from our fellow candidates that in some way the process has been flawed. The suggestion has been made that the value of the Irish and French bids has been under-scored or misunderstood. It would be understandable if those sentiments were largely informed by disappointment. However, it is our firm conviction that World Rugby has run a rigorous and professional process of unimpeachable integrity.
Even during the 2010 FIFA World Cup bidding process, our competitors and their fellow detractors had mounted a concerted smear campaign to besmirch and malign South Africa's bid. They alleged that our country was grossly ill-prepared to host such a big event. They further declared our country to be the crime capital of the world. They prophesised impending doom and gloom that will befall the tournament, tourist and fans coming to our shores. We South Africans however are quite resilient and when we put our mind to something we make it work and deliver world class service and standards that, more often than not, exceeds the expectations of even the most cynical. All of the prophecies indeed came to naught. These latter day prophets and naysayers will again be proven wrong.
We now wait for the outcome of the secret ballot in London today, Wednesday, November 15. The bid team has done its work; we have proved that South Africa is the best choice to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023. On behalf of the South African government I call on all South Africans to wear their green and gold on Friday and on D-Day next Wednesday to visibly show the world our nation’s eagerness and excitement at the prospect of hosting this marvellous event.
Thulas Nxesi is the Minister of Sport and Recreation
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