Cape Town - The recent 2015 World Cup in
England and Wales will be a challenging act to follow, but South Africa is set
fair for a concerted assault on bagging the 2023 event - 28 years after the
indelible memories of RWC 1995.
That is the assurance of SARU CEO Jurie
Roux, who spent much time in the UK during September and October gathering
intelligence for the expected SA bid for the follow-up tournament to
Japan-staged RWC 2019 - the host will be known in around two years’ time.
Here is the first instalment of the Sport24
interview; part two will be run tomorrow ...
were your broad impressions, as SARU CEO, of RWC 2015?
I would say from an organisational point of
view, probably the best event I have been to. Just from a day-to-day
operational aspect, general working of the event itself and even in the
build-up ... everything was on time; they hit every deadline. We had very few
hiccups in the event. Of the World Cups I have been to, this was the best by
seemed to do well commercially, and world rugby broadly seems in a healthy
Yes, I mean London is a very unique city
and it has the ability to generate revenue. Obviously with the pound being so
strong, the commercial argument is always a very strong one in London. It is
well documented that it has commercially been the biggest World Cup ever, had the
most tickets sold, and had a slightly different commercial plan where the RFU
was incentivised to actually push it past the normal guarantees and limits. So
business-wise, it was a huge success. There is a bit of a catch in that ...
World Rugby works on a four-year-forward cycle, so all of the funding for World
Rugby in the last four years was on the back end of the planning of RWC 2015.
So other than the very last uptake in tickets and commercial value, all of that
has been spent over four years. We now enter a new cycle and yes, there will be
some money left from RWC 2015, but the new cycle works on the planning of the
2019 World Cup. That is obviously a completely different commercial argument.
the latest World Cup only strengthen your resolve to nail it down for 2023?
Just from an aspirational point of view,
yes. I mean, you look at everything and ask yourself: can we do this? We’ve
staged major events before, we’ve got the stadiums ... great venues in our
country, actually. We have the people to do it, and we’ve definitely got the
climate to be able to stage something like that. But there is also a little bit
of a fear aspect in there: commercially it will be a tough act to follow, and not
necessarily just Japan (next in 2019) ... you know, purely from a commercial
aspect all World Cups should be centred on London, because we would make enough
money to run world rugby for four years every year! It’s a tough commercial act
to follow. But in other respects, I think our country is in desperate need of
something big, something positive in the sporting environment. There’s a strong
sentimental (argument) in our favour, obviously ... we will always struggle to
compete in currency terms to the Euro, pound and dollar, but by 2023, we would
not have had a World Cup in Africa for almost 30 years. And we are the biggest
rugby-playing country in Africa, the natural selection for a tournament. We
need to spread the game. If we can take it to Asia, with an already reduced
commercial outlook (for 2019) – perhaps there will be 20 to 30 percent less
value out of the Japan World Cup – then if that argument holds, it should hold
for Africa as well. Rugby is developing at a high pace in countries north of
South Africa and it would be great to bring it back to the continent.
how much of an impediment is our currency weakness? A few years ago on a visit
here, Bernard Lapasset (chairman of World Rugby) seemed very bullish to the
media about South Africa getting 2023, but the rand was a fair bit more
competitive then ...
Well, I think on delivering the guarantee
and getting the agreements in place in terms of your broadcasting and
sponsorship, it is not such a major issue – you are still selling value.
Whether that value is sold in London, Tokyo, Johannesburg or Cape Town doesn’t
really matter. There’s a certain value; it gets broadcasted all over the world,
the same amount of eyes will see it, we’re in a favourable place from a
time-zone point of view. So that (currency) value is perhaps not the real
issue. The real issue is in your ticketing, and the affordability of it, and
the amount of money that would come out of that. In England the amount that
came out in that respect in was ridiculous; it was great value. That would be
our biggest challenge. But in the process and roll-out, the new commercial
model of the next World Cup has completely changed, and in actual fact in the tender
you hand in, you have to provide your preferred commercial model – there is no
finite model. So all of your candidates can come forward with one, and World
Rugby will take that into consideration along with all of the other factors. Yes,
the currency plays a big role, but it is also more than that.
will we know who banks 2023?
The process has been brought a little bit
forward in terms of when the decision will be made, so hopefully we will know
by the end of 2017. We all had to give our intentions of interest as the first
step, then we all took part in an observer programme for a full week in the
latest World Cup, where we had representatives of SA Rugby and also SASCOC
present. The tender documentation will come out in the first or second quarter
of next year; you will have to give your intention to tender by the third
quarter. All of your documentation must be in by mid-2017 and the decision
comes at Council level in November that year. That is basically the process. It
leaves you a fair amount of time in making the decision of whether you finally
will tender, and then jump through the other hoops in getting SASCOC ,
Department of Sport and Recreation and ultimately Government support.
about the effect of the Commonwealth Games in Durban, only a year earlier than
It is obviously something to consider, and
the effect that will have on Government, and funding that has to flow from
that. I think personally that the events should actually enhance each other and
not be a stumbling block. But we need to talk to Government, the stakeholders,
all of the unions and the cities you would like to see hosting RWC matches, to
get everyone on board. That’s the key: get everyone on board from the word go,
rather than further down the line. Sell it once you have complete buy-in.
the traditional north-south (hemispheres) rotation from one World Cup to
another work in our favour, especially considering that the northern hemisphere
will for the first time have had two in a row after England 2015 and Japan
There might have been an unwritten rule
like that at some stage, but it doesn’t actually (apply). There will be four
bidders, I think ... initially there were six indicating interest but only four
went onto the observer programme recently, plus Japan who had to be there for
2019. The others are France, Italy and Ireland. In the end everybody mentioned
will go for it ... they all want it, for various reasons. Italy has never had
it, France had it in 2007, and Ireland, who have never had it, boast a strong
commercial case. Their bid will be competitive. But as for that rotation theory
... let’s just say that these days nothing is guaranteed. It will come to some
bidding, and probably some politics as well, unfortunately.
have seen on the cricket front, with India, that their major muscle in several
respects seems to be earning them a greater portion these days of ICC
I have to tell you I don’t see that kind of
strong-arming happening in World Rugby at this moment. I mean, we do have the
traditional north-south split in terms of allegiance, but there is no one,
single (country) that is that powerful. Yes, the All Blacks are overpowering
everyone on the field at present, and yes, the RFU is financially very strong
in England but in the end we’ve got an abundance of new regions that are
opening. We have just changed our governance model in terms of voting to make
us more compliant in terms of the Olympic Charter, and being more accessible
and everybody getting a better vote and a better system. Oregan (Hoskins, the
SARU president) was chairman of that sub-committee. So I think we are going in
the other direction, and it very much driven by the fact that we are now an
2003 Cricket World Cup in these parts was an “African” one despite South Africa
being main hosts: Kenya and Zimbabwe were also drawn in. Could you see 2023
perhaps being a “southern African” RWC if we get it, with Namibia and others
getting some involvement?
I wouldn’t have said “World Cup coming back
to Africa” if we weren’t thinking along those lines. But it would more our
closer neighbours, perhaps ... Namibia, Zimbabwe, even possibly Botswana. Perhaps
they might get a match, or a venue. Once again, it’s cost versus commercial
value. But no, you don’t claim an African World Cup and then host it solely in
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