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The rugby world turned topsy-turvy with the recent decision to award France the Rugby World Cup in 2023. What, at first, appeared to be a transparent process, welcomed by the potential host bidders, France, Ireland, and South Africa, concluded in disappointment and acrimony.
World Rugby decided to establish a decision process utilizing a Technical Committee that assessed the bids in several specific areas that then were weighted in importance. The nation with the cumulative highest points total would be awarded the 2023 RWC.
The Committee conducted its evaluation, much of it coming from the three countries' detailed proposals, including, promised money. South Africa at first emerged as the frontrunner, a finding that would schedule its second RWC hosting since 1995. It would also be the first southern hemisphere event since New Zealand's RWC in 2011. (England in 2015. Japan in 2019)
But this independent report represented only a recommendation and not the final ballot. That would come from a larger group numbering thirty-nine votes. Many anticipated that the assembly would respect the Committee's extensive (and costly) review to rubberstamp South Africa for 2023.
When the thirty-nine voted, they disregarded the Committee's initial score, and decided that France would be selected for 2023. The primary reason for the adjustment was money; the French proffered £350 million to World Rugby while South Africa offered £270 million. Money, as a stand-alone variable, did not constitute the Committee's decisions that emanated from assessing other hosting variables (i.e.; safety, hospitality infrastructure, stadiums, transportation, etc.).
Yet, money won out.
Ninety-percent of World Rugby's income is derived from the quadrennial tournament. And that means that the size of its cash awards to Unions - particularly, Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries - is also determined by how much it generates from the World Cups.
A journalist summed up the proposal procedure writing, "South Africa's bid was on practicality, Ireland on potential, but France offered profitability."
What does the 2023 decision mean for the 2027 bidders? If money becomes the sole variable, why could not France host that tournament also? Or, if England comes up with an equal number, would World Rugby award it the event, only twelve years and two tournaments from its successful 2015 RWC? Would the RWC then alternate between the big money makers of England and France without any consideration for moving the RWC to other rugby-playing countries?