€320m World Cup bid underwritten

The Government yesterday agreed to formally underwrite an approximate €320m to host the Rugby World Cup in Ireland in 2023.

The all-Ireland bid to world rugby authorities has to be lodged in the coming weeks and in the absence of a Stormont administration, a letter of guarantee was sought and secured from the five main parties in the North to commit to their share of the costs.

The letter was signed by the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Ulster Unionists, a government spokesman has said.

Expenditure for the tournament will be 85% guaranteed by Dublin and 15% by the North’s administration, information obtained by the Irish Examiner reveals.

However, Government sources say they expect that most of the funds will be recouped from the tournament.

Ireland is one of three countries bidding to host the tournament in 2023 alongside France and South Africa.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross briefed his Cabinet colleagues and won their agreement to proceed.

Officials involved are increasingly confident Ireland stands a strong chance of beating France and South Africa to host the tournament, as preparations are finalised for an application next month.

Money being guaranteed for the bid includes €120m to host the tournament, while another €200m will be underwritten for operational costs, including redeveloping stadiums and policing.

The formal letter from Government to guarantee the €320m was submitted last September to the World Rugby Council, the body overseeing the selection process for the 20-nation tournament.

It is understood that large portions of the money will not need to be paid up front. Of the €120m to host the tournament, the bid would see just 5% of those funds expected to be paid in advance while the remainder of the tournament fee could be paid after 2023, say Government sources.

An oversight body for the all-island bid includes chairman and former Tánaiste, Dick Spring, Ireland and Leinster rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll, and Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive Philip Browne.

The 12 stadiums proposed for the competition bid, including a number of GAA venues, have now been finalised as part of the formal application. These include Croke Park, the Aviva stadium and the RDS in Dublin; Casement Park and Kingspan Stadium in Belfast; Pairc Uí Chaoimh in Cork; Thomond Park, Limerick; Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney; Pearse Stadium, Galway; McHale Park in Castlebar; Nowlan Park, Kilkenny; and Celtic Park in Derry.

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