Why Ireland Shouldn’t Host The 2023 World Cup

It’s still nine years away from happening but already several nations have expressed interest in hosting the 2013 World Cup. Italy, Argentina, U.S.A., and Ireland are some of the known countries but there will likely be a few others (South Africa has been mentioned) that throw their hats into the ring as the time gets closer. Of those teams that have expressed interest the smart money is on either Italy or Ireland hosting.

The IRB went a little out of their typical pattern when they awarded the 2019 World Cup to Japan. Up until they made that decision the World Cup had been given to a Tier I country. There are plenty of reasons why they have done that—rewarding established fan bases, venues, etc.,–but mostly it comes down to IRB politics. The IRB is still ruled by a few top governing bodies and they aren’t too keen to do anything that would take away potential revenue from one of their governing boards. The move to award Japan the World Cup was only done because a World Cup in Japan is a near guarantee to make money.

With the IRB wanting to bring the tournament back to an established country Italy and Ireland make sense from their point of view. Even though Italy is not in the same category as England or Australia the tournament could improve the state of rugby in that country which would bolster the rest of the Six Nations.

Ireland has been the most vocal when it comes to hosting the World Cup. They have even secured Gaelic sports stadiums to increase their potential bid. However, with all due respect to Ireland and their fans, awarding the World Cup to Ireland would be a mistake. It’s absolutely true that Ireland have a great rugby tradition. They have some of the best clubs in terms of support, a solid national team, and have produced some of the game’s best icons. But awarding a World Cup to another traditional power will continue to keep rugby from reaching new heights.

In some ways it is unfair to compare the Rugby World Cup to the FIFA World Cup. The sports are simply on two different levels right now. Still, it’s important to make the comparison as a point of reference. One of the things that has helped the FIFA World Cup grow into an even bigger event in the last twenty years was the decision to award the World Cup to the United States and Japan/South Korea. In both places the World Cup helped accelerate the growth of the game, especially among a younger generation. All you have to do is look at the growth in poplaraity of not only soccer in general in the United States but also the attached fans now have to foreign clubs.

If the Rugby World Cup were awarded to the United States there is no guarantee that the same thing would happen for rugby, but at least the effort would be made. The IRB is always talking about growing rugby in new markets. Placing the World Cup in a traditional market is not going to get that done. In places like Russia, Canada, and the United States it will be just another fringe event that people sort of tune into once every four years. If the IRB wants to change that they need to bring the tournament directly to them.

Overall, it’s not so much that Ireland wouldn’t host a fantastic World Cup, they obviously would, it’s that rugby has now reached a point where the status quo is no longer going to cut it. Rugby has not accelerated at the pace it needs to in developing markets over the last 10 years. That is the IRB’s long-term problem and without addressing it soon they face the prospect of never being able to overcome the hurdle.

Curtis Reed is the founder and editor of This Is American Rugby. He can be found on Twitter @ThisIsAmerRugby, on Facebook, and at www.thisisamericanrugby.com

6 Comments
  1. I am an Irish rugby fan living in Ireland. From a patriotic and economic standpoint I would love to see Ireland host RWC 2023. Despite that, for all the reasons well presented in Curtis Reed’s article, I would have to acknowledge that the sport of rugby may be better served by holding it elsewhere. Both Italy and Argentine offer plenty of attractive venues and either would represent a strategic forward-thinking hosting option.

  2. Ireland is one of the tier one nations that has never hosted any event as big as this, we had one rwc game in Ireland. We have the facilities, and have never had the privilege of hosting on our own like other countries.

    It would be great economically for our people creating jobs, and an economic boost for the country which has fallen on hard times. Now the problem with awarding it to say the US would be the constant continental eg New york to Texas to Seattle. It would take 4/5 hours car ride coast to coast in Ireland with an option of flying. It is up to the American schools ,and the US rugby union to grow the game in the US. Maybe they could do it by tempting major international teams to compete in the US in some kind of knock out tournament during the June internationals or November international windows. or maybe play a knock out rounds in June finals in November with the winning team getting 1 million dollars or money to charity.

    That will probably grow the game and get publicity for US and world rugby. The likes of Ireland vs New Zealand, Wales/France vs Australia/South Africa . But fact is Ireland needs to host the 2023 RWC we have been skipped over too many times.

  3. the irb keeps on layin emphasis on revenue but good argument though bearing in mind that sometimes u just have to forfeit some goodies to attain in life.

  4. Can’t see the IRB going outside the traditional countries two WC’s in a row. Given that the tournament will be in England in 2015 and japan in 2019 I suspect that a SH country will get the nod in 2023. Then 2027 a NH country (Ireland?) and perhaps in 2031 the US or another non traditional country. The IRB will never be accused of forward thinking or risk taking … so that is what I see ..

  5. Do you not think that the IRB are doing exactly what FIFA are doing by starting to alternate between top Nations and rapidly developing nations every other tournament? FIFA have been going from a Top Nation to a developing Nation for a long time (Brazil (top), S.A. (dev), GER (top), SK/Jap (dev), FRA (top), USA (dev)..) and have reaped the benefits of it by looking after both, presume the IRB are following suit.
    No offense, but i’d prefer to see it going to either CAN or South American country ahead of the US, of course, after Ireland has hosted it in 2023.
    USA’94 was a disaster if wanted to catch more than a match or two, especially on the west coast where I was at the time, with most of the media just slagging it off. Think the RWC would get even less publicity and be lost in the States, especially if fractured across the country.
    An Irish WC would be the absolute opposite to a US World Cup, All matches within 4 hour drive, decent knowledgeable crowds & general public, decent refreshments, with the whole country behind it & not forgetting the proximity of other major Nations.

  6. I’m an American with little interest in soccer but there is no question that WC 94 made the game relevant in this country. The game was on the rise and the WC came along at just the right time to take advantage of the growth in interest in the game. Rugby in the States is not quite at that point but is growing. It is now a common sport in high schools so it is not a mysterious sport any longer. By 2023 the game will be in a similar position as soccer was in 1994. But there is NO way that after Japan 2019 that the WC will go to another outside country. It will likely be a SH country given that England has the tournament in 2015.

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