The man behind RWC 2015

(Other) Tuesday 8 November 2011
The man behind RWC 2015
Paul Vaughan, ahead of the first RWC 2011 semi final between France and Wales, at Eden Park, Auckland, on 15 October 2011

As anyone who witnessed the seven-week festival of rugby that culminated in Richie McCaw lifting the Webb Ellis Cup will attest, the next Rugby World Cup has a lot to live up to.

But for Paul Vaughan, the man in charge of England Rugby 2015, the plan is not simply to match the quality of New Zealand 2011. The Chief Executive tasked with delivering RWC 2015 is hoping they can even surpass it.

“In terms of capacity RWC 2015 will be much larger than 2011,” says Vaughan. “Our whole strategy is based on volume. We hope to sell just shy of three million tickets while in New Zealand, their capacity was 1.4 million.”

And that is a big advantage of an English World Cup – the ability to accommodate the sheer number of people who will want to get involved.

“We have a slight advantage in that our market size is much bigger,” confirms Vaughan.

“We have 60 million living in the UK, of which nine million in England alone are already followers of Rugby Union. The whole population of New Zealand is 4.3 million.”

And it’s not just the number of rugby fans in England that Vaughan is counting on, it’s supporters from all over the world. “Accessibility to England is one of our strengths. You have Wales, Scotland and Ireland next door, and France and 300 million more in Europe just a train ride away. We are right in the heart of Europe and we are just six and a half hours flying time from the east coast of the USA.”

To put that into perspective, in 2011, New Zealand welcomed around 120,000 overseas visitors for the event. 350,000 are expected for RWC 2015, from as far afield as Russia and Canada.

RWC 2015 tournament venues

Planning for the tournament is already well underway and there are sure to be challenges to negotiate in the coming months and years, among them the scheduling.

The nominated list of venues for RWC 2015 stretches the length of the country, from St James Park, Newcastle in the north, down to St Mary’s, Southampton in the south – and it includes some of the most famous stadiums in the world. As well as the rugby cathedrals of Twickenham and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, famous football grounds like Anfield, Wembley and Old Trafford are all on the list, which means a lot of work will be required on scheduling with organisations like UEFA and the Premier League.

And of course, recreating the sense of excitement and passion that swept across New Zealand in September and October will be no easy feat.

Fan Zones to enhance atmosphere

“The consistency of the way the tournament was presented across the country was first class,” says Vaughan. “Everywhere, towns and cities got behind it. The nation embraced it amazingly well.”

To create the energy and bring world rugby fans together, Vaughan plans to employ Fan Zones, which were so successful at RWC 2011. There will be one set up in London, one in Cardiff and another probably in Manchester, with smaller versions in areas such as Richmond, near Twickenham. Vaughan experienced the benefits of the Fan Zones for himself in New Zealand.

“I was at the Heineken Bar in Shed 10 for the Australia v Russia match, alongside a whole pile of people supporting the underdog. It was a fantastic atmosphere. People from all nationalities, basically having a great time, this great glow between them, over a few beers.”

Four years out, Vaughan is confident that RWC 2015 will build on the success of RWC 2011. “New Zealand embraced the tournament in such a huge way. It’s difficult to replicate that in the UK, but we have can have pockets within the country that can have a Rugby focus.”

Most of all, Vaughan is determined that England 2015 is not simply the biggest and best RWC yet. He wants it to leave behind something positive for the entire rugby world.
“We want to establish a legacy for rugby after the tournament,” he says, “not just for the Home Unions (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales) but throughout Europe and stretching to Japan, who host the next RWC in 2019.”