RUGBY WORLD CUP: Derry can host Group Game in 2023

'Derry for 2023' spokesperson Steve Bradley.
'Derry for 2023' spokesperson Steve Bradley.

JUST hours ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations’ tournament, an interesting campaign has been launched to have Derry included in Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Rugby World Cup remains one of the fashionable sporting events, globally delivering a huge financial and tourism boost to the nation that hosts it.

The 2015 finals in England were estimated to have created almost £1 billion of economic value and to have supported 41,000 jobs, both in the build-up and during the tournament itself.

Ireland is one of the four nations bidding to host the 2023 finals - in the company of South Africa, France and Italy. The French and South Africans have held the tournament previously, whilst Italy is considered one of rugby’s weaker nations. All of which makes Ireland many people’s favourites to be awarded hosting rights.

The final decision on which country will host the 2023 finals will not be made until May, 2017, but an initial proposal must be submitted by this June.

And, whilst a number of towns and cities around Ireland seem likely to be selected to host games in the Irish bid, Derry has been completely overlooked.

Derry has everything needed to successfully host group games in the tournament. Yet we’re being completely overlooked by those behind the bid.

‘Derry For 2023’ spokesperson Steve Bradley

Steve Bradley is a spokesperson for the ‘Derry For 2023’ campaign.

As a Derry man based in the rugby-mad city of Bath, he recently studied the impact of major sporting and cultural events as part of a Masters Degree in Urban Regeneration. He is concerned that Derry and the North-West is about to miss out on the economic windfall that an Irish Rugby World Cup would bring.

He told the “Journal”: “The biggest sporting event anywhere in the world in 2023 will be the Rugby World Cup. If it comes to Ireland, it will be the biggest event ever staged here, giving global exposure to the towns and cities involved.

“Derry has everything needed to successfully host group games in the tournament. Yet we’re being completely overlooked by those behind the bid.”

Every country bidding to host the Rugby World Cup must identify 12 stadiums capable of staging matches in the tournament and, with few rugby grounds in Ireland considered big enough, the GAA has agreed to make eight of its venues available. It is, therefore, expected that the Irish proposal will include three stadiums in Dublin; two each in Belfast and Limerick and one in Cork, Galway, Thurles, Killarney and Castlebar.

Mr. Bradley pointed to the Co. Mayo town, insisting that Derry would be much better placed to cope with a World Cup fixture. “Castlebar is a great town, but boasts a population of 25,000,” he said “How would its infrastructure cope with a huge number of supporters, players, VIPs, sponsors and media for a global event ? And, more importantly, if Dublin, Limerick and Belfast are going to have more than one stadium each included, why not switch one of those venues to Derry? That way the north-west can be involved without anywhere else being excluded.

“There are three simple reasons why Derry should be included. It would be good for Ireland’s bid, good for the North-West region and good for rugby

“The North-West area has a huge amount to offer. Derry is the fourth biggest city on the island with a unique tourism product. We’ve shown through the Fleadh, City of Culture, Clipper Race and the Hallowe’en Festivals that we are capable of hosting major events,” noted Bradley.

And he holds the view that, in Celtic Park, Derry has a quality stadium capable of staging group games, and which would cost less to upgrade than some of the other GAA grounds proposed.

“With the organisers of the Irish bid emphasising its cross-border nature as a positive, involving Ireland’s only cross-border regional capital would make perfect sense. “It would have a positive impact on the most economically disadvantaged city and region on the island. A rugby world cup would have a bigger impact on the economy and global profile of Derry and neighbouring counties than the City of Culture, All-Ireland Fleadh and Clipper races combined.”

“A Rugby World Cup in the Derry area would be good for the game itself,” insists Steve Bradley.

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