The day after South Africa was recommended as the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup the backlash has already begun, with leaders of France’s rival bid, regarded by many as the favourite, expressing incomprehension over the decision and claiming that their bid had been misunderstood by the board of Rugby World Cup Limited, which made the recommendation.
A final decision will be made by the ruling Council of World Rugby, rugby union’s world governing body, on 15 November.
But at a hastily-convened press conference in Paris yesterday afternoon, Claude Atcher, the French bid director (pictured right), referred to “colossal errors” in the assessment of the French bid over issues such as taxation and doping, adding: “We’re going to ask for explanations from members of the two audit commissions because certain elements aren’t right.”
Atcher also claimed: “Perhaps we didn't explain ourselves well, but we have five new stadia out of the nine planned, and that was not taken into account. Our transport network is without doubt the best in the world. Letters from mayors and the football league guarantee the exclusivity of the stadia, free of advertising and available during the tournament. That’s not mentioned in the dossier. Last September we responded to 19 questions on this subject and we provided all the answers. I don’t see any mention of it. That’s why we don’t understand it.”
Under the five main criteria assessed by the board, South Africa scored highest in three: 'tournament, organisation and schedule'; 'venues and host cities'; and 'tournament infrastructure'. France scored highest for the remaining two, ‘vision and hosting concept’ and ‘finance, commercial and commitment’, with Ireland, the third bidder, trailing in second or third place on all five.
South Africa's bid apparently offered the highest financial guarantee to World Rugby, worth £160 million ($213 million), followed by France's with £150 million and Ireland, which offered the minimum guarantee of £120 million.
However, both the France and Ireland bids have insisted that the race is not over yet, with 39 votes to be won when the World Rugby Council meets to decide the host, as follows:
• The remaining Six Nations unions (England, Scotland, Wales and Italy) and SANZAAR unions (Australia, New Zealand and Argentina) have three votes each
• The six regional associations (Oceania Rugby, Sudamerica Rugby, Rugby Americas North, Rugby Europe, Rugby Africa and Asia Rugby) and the Japan Rugby Football Union have two votes each
• The remaining four votes belong to Georgian Rugby Union, Rugby Canada, USA Rugby and Federatia Romȃnă de Rugby.
Bernard Laporte, president of the FFR, the French rugby federation (pictured centre), suggested that the voting is set to split along geo-political lines, saying: “In a way, it’s northern hemisphere versus southern hemisphere. I think that the nations of the north will tend to vote for a northern nation.
“These are only recommendations, and their value is only indicative. It’s the presidents who vote, they are the ones who will tip the balance. And we’re not missing by much…”
Explaining the assessment process, World Rugby said yesterday: “The evaluation of the detailed bid submissions has been led by a team of World Rugby and external area experts. This was supported throughout by stringent independent evaluation and analysis from The Sports Consultancy to ensure evidence-based objectivity and consistent application against a set of weighted scoring criteria based on the following World Rugby objectives, which were agreed by the Board, noted by Council and communicated to the host candidates:
• Venues and infrastructure commensurate with a top-tier major event
• Comprehensive and enforceable public and private sector guarantees
• A commercially successful event with a fully funded, robust financial model
• Operational excellence through an integrated and experienced delivery team
• A vision that engages and inspires domestic and international audiences and contributes to the growth of rugby at all levels
• An enabling environment of political and financial stability that respects the diversity of the Rugby World Cup’s global stakeholders
• An environment and climate suited to top-level sport in a geography that allows maximum fan mobility.”