World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin sees a $500 million plan for the United States to host the 2031 men’s and 2033 women’s World Cups as essential for growing the sport globally.
The partnership plan with USA Rugby to host the events, including an expected letter of support next week from US President Joe Biden, will be considered at a May 12 meeting of the World Rugby Council.
“We’re not talking to anybody else about 2031 and 2033. That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” Gilpin told reporters in a Thursday conference call, noting, “The real hard work starts on the 13th of May.”
Beyond staging the event, the plan would involve tapping new commercial revenue streams for partnerships and giving women’s rugby a global boost.
“It’s not just important, it’s actually essential for our plans to keep rugby growing as a world sport,” Gilpin said of staging US World Cups.
Jim Brown, chair of the USA Rugby bid group, said organizers are in talks with 28 cities and 31 possible stadiums as host venues.
“The forecasted expense is generally understood .. in the half billion-dollar mark,” Brown said of the budget. “Plus or minus $100 million, it’s about a half a billion-dollar project for us for both of them.”
Such details as visas and security will be backed federally said Brown said, noting, “There is support at the White House for ’31 and ’33” and that a formal letter to World Rugby “should be delivered by next week delivering a full commitment by the government.”
Gilpin said that profit goals for the men’s Rugby World Cup, set for France in 2023 and expected to be staged in Australia in 2027, are “always more than we had the last one,” Gilpin said, noting for France that, “We’re at the circa $400 million mark for that now and we want to build on that again through the 2031 cycle.”
That requires World Rugby to adopt a joint venture hosting model with USA Rugby, Gilpin said, calling the old bid model “very limiting strategically” but noting it eases risk on the host governing body.
“We’re actually taking more risk but it’s calculated because it’s about growth,” Gilpin said. “We require less risk-taking from a host.
“Unlike the prior model, USA Rugby hasn’t got to take the risk… because we’re going to be the ones underwriting the cost.”
Ross Young, USA Rugby’s chief executive, said that investment in items often funded by hosts also gives World Rugby greater say in decisions.
“A lot of those traditional costs, when you look at the lines, sit with the host union,” Young said. “World Rugby is going to have much more control than previously.”
By staging the Women’s World Cup in 2033 after the men’s event, Gilpin hopes it will provide a boost in the same way FIFA’s 1999 US Women’s World Cup did after the 1994 men’s football event in the United States.
“That should be the perfect storm,” Gilpin said of using the event to grow women’s rugby worldwide.
It would also follow Rugby Sevens being part of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“That felt like for all of us the right kind of horizon to build around,” Gilpin said.
The revenue would create commercial funding for rugby’s US development as well as revenue for global growth.
“We haven’t talked about revenue splits because it becomes about reinvestment essentially,” Gilpin said, hoping to leave USA Rugby a “solid foundation to be self sufficient.”
Staging Super Rugby and English Premiership matches at US venues as well as international matches would be part of the build-up for 2031.
A Canadian venue could be part of the hosting mix, although details remain incomplete.
Emilie Bydwell, US representative on World Rugby’s women’s advisory group, said the effort would help develop US professional and college opportunities for women’s rugby as well as the US women’s national team.
The $560,000 in long-term debt USA Rugby is repaying World Rugby is not part of the plan, payments continuing under a bankruptcy plan.
“We’ve effectively forgiven it because we’ve given USA Rugby the money to service it anyway,” Gilpin said.
© Agence France-Presse
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