Selecting the perfect venues for RWC 2015
In 2009 the Rugby Football Union secured the right to host the eighth Rugby World Cup tournament in England and, as part of the successful bid, identified 14 venues across England and Wales to set the base for an outstanding tournament.
Three years on and these venues, along with a further eight which have been added into the selection process – a mixture of national stadia and top level football and rugby venues, are currently being evaluated by England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015) and Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) in a bid to identify the best possible venues to host Rugby’s premier event.
Simon Jelowitz, England Rugby 2015 General Manager for Rugby Services and Venue Operations, is the man charged with identifying the top venues and is currently travelling the length and breadth of the country armed with a stringent list of criteria.
“The selection of venues is proving hugely competitive. We have so many high quality, iconic stadiums in England and a great amount of interest,” said Jelowitz. “It’s a great position in which to be as it allows us to ensure that we deliver the very best facilities to players, fans, broadcasters, media and Rugby World Cup’s commercial partners.
“The venues must fulfil some very stringent criteria, some of which is as fundamental as whether the size of the playing enclosure meets Rugby World Cup minimum standards or if the operational and playing facilities can accommodate the needs of international rugby.
A vital platform
“Thereafter, the venues must deliver against the requirements of all Rugby World Cup stakeholders; so we must look at whether supporters can access the stadium easily, have access to fantastic food and beverage facilities, is there sufficient space to host the world’s media, are the corporate facilities of the highest standards, does the stadium collaborate well with the city and regional authorities to ensure that fans are assured a great welcome and a fantastic experience for the entirety of their visit?
“All of these factors are really important, not only to enable us to deliver the best possible event, but also to ensure that everyone in England can feel truly proud to host this global Tournament.”
Reflecting the strong partnership between the local organising committee and the event owner, Rugby World Cup Limited, senior RWCL management have joined ER 2015 on each of the venue tours. With all venues subject to ultimate approval of the RWCL Board, this early engagement is a critical element of the selection process.
IRB Head of Rugby World Cup Kit McConnell noted: “Venues are a vital platform for the delivery of a successful Rugby World Cup and a pivotal ingredient in the delivery of an outstanding experience for teams, fans and media covering the tournament.
“They are the stage for the players and teams to perform and showcase to the world the excitement and drama of the sport and its values, while along with fan zones, providing the hub to engage the length and breadth of the nation.
“They must also provide a backdrop for the global broadcast of the tournament to a cumulative global audience of over four billion in over 200 territories, showcasing not only Rugby on this global stage but also the venues and host cities themselves. As our tournament continues to grow the needs of our commercial partners and corporate guests must also be met, as their partnership and support is critical to our ongoing investment in global development programmes.
Showcasing the tournament
“England is blessed with world-class sporting facilities and stadia and I am sure that whatever venues are eventually selected, they will deliver the foundation for an outstanding Rugby World Cup.”
With Rugby World Cup 2015 being one of the world’s premiere sporting events, ER 2015 and RWCL are acutely aware that they have to give fans the ultimate rugby experience while offering more people than ever the chance to attend matches. For that reason many leading larger capacity football grounds are in the running.
“One of the key strategic goals is to find real top-flight venues right across the country and to get as many people as possible engaged in watching the sport at its very best. The mixture of football and rugby venues will allow us to increase capacity which, in turn, means more people have access to tickets. Utilising larger venues also allows us to look into a pricing model that is affordable and appealing to a wide range of budgets,” said Jelowitz.
“To that end, we have also looked to include the Millennium Stadium within the tournament venue selection process. Whilst we acknowledge that this is not located in England, it will give all those supporters in the south west of the country easy access to a fantastic stadium with a capacity of over 70,000 and allows us to host some of the bigger games outside of London.
“It’s crucial that we showcase this tournament right across the country. We want to make the tournament as appealing and accessible to a diverse UK market as well as the 400,000 fans we expect to welcome to these shores to enjoy the event.
“To do that we need to engage those who love rugby, love sport or are passionate about attracting and supporting global events in their region. England has such rich, varied culture and each of the venues and their host cities reflect this – it is important we embrace that character and diversity whilst consistently delivering high quality operational venues.”
Certainly all eyes are currently turning to one of the world’s biggest celebrations of sports and culture as London prepares to host the 2012 Olympic Games. And while ER 2015 can learn and take great insight from the event it is the potential use of the centre piece stadium in the Olympic Park which has excited rugby fans ahead of 2015.
“The use of the Olympic Stadium would be part of its ‘legacy’ mode, which would potentially see the stadium regularly hosting an ‘incumbent’ professional football team as well as other events,” Jelowitz said.
“There’s an opportunity on the east side of London to attract the people of Kent, Essex and the east coast to a modern and iconic facility and with the Eurostar having the means to call at Stratford, it makes it very accessible to the Italians, French and other fans across continental Europe.
“The stadium already has world-class stature and if it can logistically deliver for rugby then it adds another element of competition into the selection of venues in London. As event organisers that competition is really healthy and helps us as we strive to deliver the very best venues available.
“We are also getting a much clearer picture of scheduling as we are aware that using Premier League grounds in September and October is not without its challenges, however the Premier League, the FA and the Football League understand that it’s positive for sport in England as a whole if we can encourage huge global Tournaments to our shores and are positively engaged with us at this time.
“It’s a really exciting process and we look forward to completing our evaluations and negotiating venue agreements by the end of the year with a view to announcing the Rugby World Cup match venues in early 2013 following a final decision by the RWCL Board.”