World Rugby has announced a new, revolutionary 10-year plan that will see the hosts of Rugby World Cups 2025, 2027, 2029, and 2031 determined during the same selection process.
Made in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty it has caused the sporting world, the new approach – a first of its kind for World Rugby – will maximise knowledge sharing, preparation time, certainty, and the overall impact of Rugby World Cup for hosts, commercial partners, broadcasters, and fans,
Providing 10 years of vital clarity for all of those stakeholders, it’s hoped that the new approach will create the opportunity for World Rugby and host unions to develop an integrated legacy for Rugby World Cup via a tailored business partnership that delivers meaningful and sustainable participation and fan growth, taking rugby to new fans in new nations.
“We know Rugby World Cups, men’s and women’s, are a huge part of the development of the sport, of creating new audiences around the world,” said Alan Gilpin, COO and Head of Rugby World Cup, World Rugby. “And so we’ve taken the decision now to bring together not only multiple tournaments, but actually men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup hosting into one process.
“Four Rugby World Cups all in one process effectively gives us a 10-year plus major event hosting strategy for rugby that allows us to build our audience growth strategies, our commercial strategies around that. We think that gives us the best opportunity to create the best strategic outcomes for rugby.
“This approach is great for nations and great for the global game and underscores the low-investment, high-return on investment hosting proposition for governments, who understandably want a tangible, impactful and cost-effective event opportunity.”
The 10-year strategy is a new approach, but the concept is already tried and tested, as World Rugby CEO, Brett Gosper, explained: “The last time we did this we ended up with a dual outcome which was England in 2015 and Japan in 2019. So people were able to use the certainty of a World Cup in a market like England with let’s be a bit bolder and braver and go to less known areas of the world and try and drive the sport from a development point of view. That risk, as it was seen at the time, was well worth taking.
“But probably if we didn’t have a dual awarding system, we would not have ended up in Japan.”
Forever breaking new ground
Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan was the most economically successful RWC ever, generating a record £4.3 billion output. As well as the tournament’s financial impact, Japan 2019 has also driven popularity for the sport in the nation and across the entire continent, inspiring 2.25 million new rugby participants in Asia, including 1.18 million in Japan alone. The tournament also attracted a national broadcast audience of more than 54 million – the biggest-ever for a domestic rugby match.
Rugby World Cup 2017 was also a groundbreaking edition. After the pool stages sold out and 17,115 spectators attended the final, the tournament produced a record total attendance of 45,412. Not only that, broadcasters in Ireland, France, the UK and USA all recorded record viewing figures; record video views, social engagement rates and website traffic made Ireland 2017 the most socially engaged World Rugby event of 2017.
The record-breaking successes of both the latest men’s and women’s tournaments underscore World Rugby’s objective that Rugby World Cups are a relatively low-investment, high return-on-investment proposition for hosts.
The 10-year plan’s three-phase bidding model, which will consist of dialogue, candidate, and evaluation phases, will run from February 2021 to May 2022, in what is a more compact process than what has previously been put in place.
Despite the process not formally launching until early 2021, there is already significant hosting interest, with the likes of Australia, Russia and USA publicly outlining interest. It’s anticipated that this announcement will generate widespread further interest.
Building bespoke bids alongside World Rugby
World Rugby is developing a comprehensive report on the impact of hosting Rugby World Cup to assist unions with the decision making and bidding processes. The report will provide guidance on how to maximise the impact of rugby’s biggest stage.
“I think it’s great for host nations, because again we’re going to show them every aspect of what it means to be a host in one process. And allow countries that are interested in hosting future Rugby World Cups, men’s and women’s, to really have a look at everything that means and to build their own view of their hosting benefits,” said Gilpin.
“We’ll obviously share a lot of the benefits that we see and allow them to pick from that portfolio what’s going to suit them best, what’s going to suit their host cities the best, their government stakeholders, their tourism ambitions. And work with them to create, hopefully really compelling bids in a really competitive selection process.”