Celtic Park included in Ireland’s World Cup 2023 bid

Celtic Park, Derry. ''(Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)
Celtic Park, Derry. ''(Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)

France and Italy stand in the way of World Cup rugby arriving in Derry after Celtic Park was included in the IRFU’s final list of Stadiums for their 2023 bid.

The ‘Derry For 2023’ campaign was launched in January following concerns Derry was being overlooked as a possible venue in Ireland’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) bid. Last year’s tournament, held in England, created 28,000 jobs and added over £1 billion to the English economy. With Derry suffering the worst unemployment in the UK, and continually finding itself over-looked for major opportunities in infrastructure, employment and education, organisers of the campaign were concerned the city would yet again miss out.

Having Derry included in Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 RWC is big news for the city, and we’re delighted to have helped make it happen

Steve Bradley (spokesperson for the ‘Derry For 2023)

Following the launch of the campaign, Derry City and Strabane District Councillors voted unanimously in March to push for the city’s inclusion in the Irish bid. Since then the council has been working with the IRFU, Derry GAA and other parties to push the case for Celtic Park to make the final list.

And with the deadline for the submission of formal bids to host the 2023 tournament falling next month, Derry and Celtic Park has been named on the final list of 12 stadia being proposed for the event. Celtic Park has replaced the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick – which, along with Thomond Park, was one of two stadiums in Limerick included in the original list.

“If media reports that Derry has made the final list are true, then this is fantastic news for our city,” said Steve Bradley, spokesperson for the ‘Derry For 2023’ campaign.

“The Rugby World Cup will be the biggest sporting event anywhere in the world in 2023. And Ireland has a real chance of winning the right to host it. Excluding the island’s fourth biggest city and the entire north-west region from an event like this would have been unforgivable. And it would’ve reduced Derry yet again to the status of onlookers whilst everyone else reaped the economic, social and infrastructural benefits.

“We questioned why places like Limerick were to have two stadiums included whilst Derry had none. And we made the case that one of those could be swapped out – enabling Derry to be included without any other town missing out. It seems our argument has won the day. Having Derry included in Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 RWC is big news for the city, and we’re delighted to have helped make it happen.”

Ireland’s chances of winning the right to host the tournament were given a major boost recently when the South African government banned its own Rugby Union from bidding due to a perceived failure by the sport there to provide greater opportunities for black players.

And with South Africa potentially ruled out, that would leave only France and Italy standing Ireland’s being awarded the tournament. France hosted an RWC as recently as 2007 but Mr. Bradley added a note of caution.

“Being included in Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 RWC is not the end of the fight – it’s only the beginning. Firstly, everyone in the north-west now needs to support the IRFU in their efforts to show the world that Ireland is the right place to hold the tournament.

“Secondly – we need to fight for the infrastructure improvements needed if the Irish bid succeeds, and for a commitment on them. In particular, we need to demand that long-overdue transport projects like the A5, A6 and the railway improvements are accelerated. How else would visitors be expected to get to Derry if the Irish bid succeeds? “This also presents an opportunity to push again for the expansion of Magee University – with student accommodation providing much-needed bed spaces for any major international sports event held here. It isn’t good enough to wait until we hear next year if the Irish bid has been successful or not. We need to use Derry’s inclusion in the bid to ensure that the button gets pushed on these crucial improvements for our city now.”