If Ireland was to win the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, what would it mean for the Irish economy? Stephen Conmy spoke with Kevin Potts, the COO of the IRFU.

Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 is closing in on the prize.

Kevin Potts, the director overseeing Ireland’s bid to host the event, spoke with ThinkBusiness about what Ireland will offer, and what hosting the tournament will mean to the Irish economy.

Sitting in the boardroom at Irish Rugby’s HQ on Dublin’s Lansdowne Road, Potts (pictured) is confident that Ireland has an excellent chance of winning the bid to host rugby’s World Cup.  

kevin potts rugby world cup 2023

“Ireland can deliver a tournament like no other, full of Irish spirit,” says Potts. “We will deliver a world class technical bid, driven by facts, unique selling points, and a little emotion.” [See video above]

Can we cope?

One thing Potts is keen to clear up is the ‘can we cope’ question.

“You hear people asking this question,” says Potts, “and it can be a little frustrating. But it’s easily answered with a few simple facts.

“Firstly, over 10.5 million people a year visit Ireland. We get more tourists each year than South Africa or Australia, both of which have hosted World Cups. We estimate that over 450,000 fans will arrive in Ireland for the tournament, a number we can very easily handle.

“We have a world-class tourism infrastructure. Over the six weeks of the tournament, there will be a requirement for 2.5 million bed nights. Across the island, we will have available over 12 million bed nights. The numbers speak for themselves.”

And while 450,000 rugby fans descending on Ireland for six weeks of rugby, hospitality, and sightseeing may seem like a lot, Potts is quick to point out that 450,000 people are less than the weekly influx of tourists during the month of August.

“We have the venues, the hotel rooms, and the infrastructure to accommodate way more than 450,000 fans.”

“We have over one million visitors to Ireland each year in August. Can Ireland cope with the Rugby World Cup? It can more than cope. We have the venues, the hotel rooms, and the infrastructure to accommodate way more than 450,000 fans. We don’t appreciate the scale of Ireland’s tourism infrastructure until we have a hard look at it and test it with numbers. We have worked with the main tourism bodies in Ireland, and they all agree. We can easily manage the numbers.”

Economically, for the island, the potential direct spend of the visiting fans is estimated at €800 million.

The economic impact

Potts says the Rugby World Cup is perhaps the biggest event Ireland can ever aspire to host.

“We may not be able to host an Olympics or a soccer World Cup, so this is the biggest world sporting event we can aspire to host. It’s massive. That’s why both governments have given their full commitment to the bid process.”

rwc ireland 2023

Economically, for the island, the potential direct spend of the visiting fans is estimated at €800 million. This windfall doesn’t include all the money that’ll be sloshing around from the native population and the brands and businesses that will sponsor the tournament. 

“A lot of money will be made during the six weeks,” says Potts, “a lot of people will get work from it, but the legacy of the World Cup is just as important. For example, all the stadia will be upgraded. There are also over 45 training facilities to be provided and improved, and they will remain as facilities after the tournament. Then there’s the global TV audience. Billions of people will see Ireland in a global, sporting spotlight.”

“We have over 70 million Diaspora, many of whom are in North America, a market the World Rugby authorities are keen to grow.”

The world is watching

Does he have any concerns? “No. We have a world-class bid in place. As a territory, we have a unique place in world rugby. Out national team is fourth in the world. We were one of the founders of World Rugby back in 1875. All our stadia are in towns and cities; people can walk to them. It’s easy for people to get around Ireland. We have a fantastic island, and we have over 70 million Diaspora, many of whom are in North America, a market the World Rugby authorities are keen to grow. I believe that not only can we cope, but we can host the best Rugby World Cup yet.” 

rugby world cup 2023 ireland

The venues

The 12 stadia in Ireland’s proposal to host the tournament are:

The Aviva Stadium (Dublin)

Thomond Park (Limerick)

Ravenhill (Belfast) 

The RDS (Dublin)

Croke Park (Dublin)

Pairc Ui Chaoimh (Cork)

Casement Park (Belfast)

Fitzgerald Stadium (Kerry)

Pearse Stadium (Galway)

McHale Park (Mayo)

Nowlan Park (Kilkenny)

Celtic Park (Derry) 

Pictured above are the chairman of the oversight board, Dick Spring; Kevin Potts; and to the right, Stephen Hilditch, the IRFU President.

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