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SBD Global/October 10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

WC Organizers Failed To Include 'The Heart And Soul' Of English Rugby On Stadium List

Organizers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England have been accused of squandering the opportunity "to battle for the heart and soul" of supporters after axing Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road from the list of potential venues for the tournament, according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. Welford Road, the biggest club rugby stadium in the country, with a capacity of 24,000, had been included in the original bid to host the tournament but "lost out because its facilities were not deemed to meet Int'l Rugby Board criteria." Leicester was informed on Friday that its application had failed, largely because of the size of its pitch and also because of delays in redevelopment of the Crumbie Stand. It is understood there is "no option to appeal the decision." Leicester CEO Simon Cohen said, "Rugby World Cups should not be just about the finances. It should be a battle for the heart and soul of rugby people, and you would like to think that rugby stadiums would play their part in that battle. As far as Leicester and the Leicester fans are concerned, I think they have missed that opportunity" (TELEGRAPH, 10/8).

DECISION CRITICIZED: Also in London, Mark Souster opined that "perception is everything" and Welford Road not making the cut as a rugby World Cup venue "is a spectacular error by England Rugby 2015." The organizers can quote processes, tick boxes and offer countless figures to substantiate their argument that Leicester’s ground is not big enough and its facilities are lacking, but denying the biggest and most successful English club its rightful place "is shameful and it sends out entirely the wrong message." The decision "shows a complete lack of understanding." Naming only one club ground on the proposed list of 17 stadiums to be used -- Kingsholm, the home of Gloucester -- "threatens to remove the soul from the tournament." It "may well prove phenomenally successful in terms of cash generated, but you have to ask at what ultimate cost." After all, "this is the rugby World Cup" (LONDON TIMES, 10/9). The BBC wrote that Gloucester has "no plans" to expand its ground in an attempt to improve its chances of hosting games at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Managing Dir Chris Ferguson told the BBC the club would not need "to make capital investment" to make the final list of 12 stadia. He continued: "The ground as it stands hold 16,000, and we have the facilities and infrastructure to match that" (BBC, 10/9).
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