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Why South Africa Should Host the 2023 Rugby World Cup

With just days to go before South Africa presents its bid in the UK (on 25 September), here are all the reasons why South Africa should win the bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

South Africa is ready financially and infrastructurally. Of the three bidders, only South Africa can deliver a high-quality, low-cost tournament, and showcase a world-class sports experience that will build the nation.

The Bidders

South Africa: Last hosted the tournament in 1995 If successful, Rugby World Cup 2023 will be the second time the country has hosted the tournament in 28 years. South Africa previously bid for 2011, 2015 and 2019 tournaments.

France: Last hosted the tournament in 2007. If successful Rugby World Cup 2023 will be the second time it has hosted the tournament in 16 years.

Ireland: Has not bid before, but did host matches in 1991 and 1999.

South Africa’s Bid Headlines

  • Confirmed Government support of GBP 160 million – GBP 40 million more than the minimum requirement.
  • Budgeted for the most profitable World Cup in the tournament’s history, with a projected 2.9 million tickets sold and the biggest ever final in stadium attendance. Based on the World Bank’s purchasing parity index, South Africa can deliver a high-quality event for a half, or less than half, of what it will cost in Europe.
  • South Africa’s attractive exchange rate means that fans can spend two or three weeks following their team from the pool to the knockout stages for the same cost as just one week in Ireland or France.
  • South Africa is only an overnight flight from Europe: attractive for sponsors, international and corporate travellers alike.
  • South Africa is located in the most lucrative broadcast time-zone.
  • World-class facilities and playing conditions during the early Southern Hemisphere summer that are conducive to a showcase of fast, running rugby.
  • A track record of expertise in successfully delivering major events. Ellis Park has just hosted the largest-ever Super Rugby final in a packed 62 000 all-seater stadium. South Africa is one of only two countries to successfully host the Rugby, Football and Cricket World Cups. It hosted the relocated 2009 Indian Premier League, with fewer than 30 days’ notice. In the same period, it hosted the 2009 British & Irish Lions and the FIFA Confederations Cup.
  • A digital partnership with Dimension Data’s Sports Practice Business Unit will ensure the most connected, digital tournament to date. The digital innovations, providing seamless fan engagement and broadcasting production and consumption, can be used in future Rugby World Cups.
  • Players, officials and fans all love coming to South Africa.

South Africa’s undertaking

The bid makes 10 commitments to RWCL to deliver the most memorable major sporting event of 2023. These are:

  1. We will make World Rugby proud: South Africa will deliver an event that will honour the custodianship of the tournament, celebrate its 10th anniversary and the games 200-year history.
  2. It will be the most profitable Rugby World Cup: The South African Government-guaranteed tournament fee is R2.7 billion, which is R675 million more than the bid requirement. Government guaranteed the amount because in South Africa the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be a low-risk, high-return event in an ideal commercial environment (time zone, language, rights protection).
  3. Peak performance: Our player-centric focus will be unprecedented in comfort, convenience and support. The player performance will be optimal, given the ideal playing conditions, world-class match venues and training facilities and a match schedule with low travel impact.
  4. We see the big picture: This is World Rugby’s tournament, we are providing the stage. It’s an event for the whole world, not just South Africa. Together we will deliver operational excellence, with the full support of our National Government and host cities.
  5. Super stadia: South Africa has eight rugby and true-multi-purpose, all-seater, world-class match venues. All our stadia could host a quarter-final and four stadia meet and exceed RWCL’s requirements to host the final.
  6. Perfect conditions: Our match venues will have new, full-sized Desso pitches that are firm and dry in the South African spring. These conditions will make for brilliant and entertaining rugby.
  7. Fan-tastic: We’ll host the biggest rugby carnival that is vibrantly African in a top international tourist destination… where visitors can enjoy rugby, beautiful beaches, natural splendour and Big 5 wildlife.
  8. Best tournament experience: South Africa is high-quality, low-cost destination and our budget prioritise player welfare and exceptional quality. Our local costs decrease RWCL’s delivery costs and are attractive to international visitors.
  9. Leveraging technology: Our ICT partner is a world leader in digital sports technology and will ensure the tournament connects to and inspires a global audience. It will develop a bespoke tournament management system that will be transferred to RWCL and future hosts at no cost.
  10. Tournament Legacy: World Rugby will be the biggest beneficiary of Rugby World Cup 2023’s global rugby spectacle, rugby and technology legacy and improved knowledge transfer to 2027 host candidates. The tournament will support World Rugby’s vision of delivering a truly global mass-participation sport.

The economic benefits

According to an economic impact assessment by auditors, Grant Thornton, hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup will:

  • Bring South Africa R27.3 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact. It will also sustain 38 600 annual job equivalents – some temporary and some permanent.
  • Generate R11 billion in direct spend in South Africa and R1.4 billion in tax revenue. An amount of R5.7 billion will flow to low-income households.
  • The economic impact will be shared across the seven host cities.
  • With the most matches and the final, Johannesburg will benefit by an amount of R10 billion with 14 102 jobs created or sustained. The contribution to Cape Town’s GDP will be R5.2 billion with 7 304 jobs.
  • The economic impact for the remaining five host cities – Durban, Tshwane, Bloemfontein, Nelson Mandela Bay and Mbombela – is between R1.4 and 4.5 billion.
  • In addition to the tangible economic impact, the report also lists a number of intangible benefits that will accrue to the country. These include enhancing South Africa’s international profile, increased tourism before and after the tournament and the cohesion and national pride that results from hosting a major international sporting event.
  • Successfully hosting the event will generate interest in hosting other global events in South Africa in future.

The report concludes: “The resulting economic impact assessment shows that the 2023 Rugby World Cup will provide significant economic benefits to the local economy in respect of jobs sustained, gross geographic product and taxation.”

The financial model

Rugby World Cup 2023 will be the biggest, most financially successful World Cup ever. It will deliver at least GBP 30.1 million (after tax @ 28%).

South Africa’s lower local costs enable the highest-quality tournament delivery and deliver more profit.

World Bank purchasing power parity, cost-of-living indices and even the Big Mac index demonstrate that local costs and wages average 50% or less than in Europe.

The premium tournament budget of ZAR3.116 billion is equivalent to GBP173 million. When World Bank purchasing parity data is applied, Ireland and France will need to spend GBP 361 million to buy what South Africa can achieve for GBP 173 million – less than half the cost.

The match venues

There are seven host cities and eight world-class match ready venues. They are all-seat venues, as originally specified by Rugby World Cup Limited and all have nearby training facilities for the teams.

All host venues have successfully hosted 2010 FIFA World Cup matches. All the stadia meet and exceed Rugby World Cup match venue requirements – four are capable of hosting a final and the remainder a quarter-final.

The stadia are in South Africa’s largest cities. All the required transport, accommodation and other infrastructure, including broadcast facilities, already exist.

There is a high level of support for rugby in the seven cities, which host Super Rugby and test matches and SA Rugby have existing city relationships in place to deliver major events.

Johannesburg: Jo’burg has two venues. The National Stadium was completed in 2010 and seats 87 436 fans. It will host the opening, semi-final and the final. It hosted the opening and final matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and will host the largest crowd ever to attend a Rugby World Cup semi-final or final match. It is larger and more modern than the Stade de France and Ireland’s Croke Park. Ellis Park was upgraded in 2010 and seats 61 519. In July it was the venue for the largest-ever Super Rugby final and in 1995 hosted the Rugby World Cup final. It is a much-loved rugby venue and will host pool matches and the Bronze final.

Cape Town: Cape Town Stadium has the best location of any sports stadium. It was completed in 2009 and seats 65 990. It is only 2km for the international tourist destination, the V&A Waterfront, with Table Mountain as a backdrop. It is surrounded by the city centre and the ocean and has a famous ‘fan walk’ from the city. It will host two quarter finals and category A pool matches.

Durban: Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was completed in 2009 and seats 70 000. With its iconic ‘arch of triumph,’ the stadium is an engineering feat which provides Durban with a defining landmark. Only 5km from the city centre, it is flanked by beautiful beaches, with the Drakensberg Mountains only a short drive away. It will host category A and quarterfinal games.

Tshwane: Loftus Versfeld is home to some of the most passionate rugby fans in South Africa. It is a world-class rugby stadium only 5km from the Tshwane city centre. It featured in Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus about the 1995 Ruby World Cup. It was upgraded in 2009 and seats 50 000 fans. It will be used for category B games.

Nelson Mandela Bay: Nelson Mandela Bay is an adventure-sports mecca, in close proximity to game parks offering Big Five game viewing and a few kilometres from the beachfront tourist attractions. It was completed in 2009 and seats 44 481 fans. It will be used for category B games.

Bloemfontein: The City of Roses is centrally situated, making it an ideal stop for fans driving between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Upgraded for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Free State Stadium is 2km from the city centre. It seats 45 082 fans. It will be used for category B games.

Mbombela: Mbombela is the gateway to the famous Kruger National Park and the stadium draws design influences from the nearby reserve. It is famed for its trademark zebra-patterned seating and roof-support columns that resemble giraffes standing watch over spectators. It is the pride of Mpumalanga province. It was completed in 2009 and seats 43 500 fans.

The experience

If South Africa is successful, Rugby World Cup 2023 will be a fully immersive event, with rugby dominating front- and back-page news and sports-mad South Africans getting fully engaged, to the extent of adopting teams staying in their cities – much as they did for the FIFA World Cup. It is the only major international event South Africa is likely to host for the next 20 years.

One of the innovations is that people who buy tickets for the higher-priced games – the opening game, the quarter- and semi-finals, the bronze final and the final, will be required to buy a certain number of tickets for pool matches. These will be given to non-governmental organisations and distributed to schools and clubs, ensuring that there will be opportunities for people in poorer communities to enjoy the event.

In addition, the ticketing strategy and particularly in the pool games, has prioritised attendance. There will be affordable tickets, ensuring that locals enjoy the tournament and that the stadia are filled to capacity.

Seven official Fanzone sites have been identified in the host cities. They will be open for the opening match day, semifinal matches, the final match, every South African match and all ‘home’ matches played in the host cities.

For visitors, each host city will be showcasing the best of what that city has to offer, from beaches to safaris and championship golf courses to world-class restaurants and wine estates.

The 2023 Rugby World Cup will be an inclusive experience for all South Africans and an unforgettable rugby and tourism experience for visitors.

The Process

  • 25 September 2017: Presentations to the World Rugby Council & Exco.
  • 31 October 2017: World Rugby press release announcing the results of an internal report on the recommended host.
  • 15 November 2017: World Rugby Council members vote to select the host of Rugby World Cup 2023, followed by a media conference announcing the decision.

So there you have it. Now do your part to support South Africa’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup by sharing this post.

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