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World Cup could return to New Zealand - Snedden
Graham Jenkins
August 23, 2010
Martin Snedden, CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011 poses with the William Webb Ellis Trophy, IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool Allocation Draw, Tower Bridge, London, England, December 1, 2008
Rugby New Zealand 2011 boss Martin Snedden will preside over next year's tournament © Getty Images
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Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden is confident next year's World Cup will not be the last to be staged in the country.

Rugby's showpiece event kicks off in a little over a year's time with many suggesting that the tournament represents the country's last chance to welcome the world's best due to the demands of hosting what is the third biggest sporting event on the planet - behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. But speaking to ESPNscrum in the first of a series of features counting down to Rugby World Cup 2011, Snedden believes that a successful tournament could surprise many and lay the foundation for its return in the future.

"The cost of running this tournament is a stiff challenge," he admitted. "We are expecting to lose around NZ$40m but I think however the Government see that as a good investment as long as we use the tournament as a catalyst for a lot of things that will in turn benefit New Zealand as a whole.

"There is a strong desire to make that so. It is a very tough financial model and we've already seen Australia decide not to proceed with a bid for the 2015 tournament. It may be that in the future the best way forward is for New Zealand and Australia to jointly host a Rugby World Cup. But who knows, maybe we will do such a great job with this event that we decide in the future that it is worth giving a smaller country another look because they could be a surprise package. I am confident that we can do such a good job that it is at the least a conversation we have going forward."

Snedden, a 51-year-old former Black Caps international, is determined to prove wrong those critics who suggested that the decision to award New Zealand the 2011 tournament was one based on sentiment. To do that he will need to ensure the country as a whole buys into the event - and stumps up for the 1.2 million tickets that organisers aim to sell at home.

"Quite simply we need the ticketing to work as it is our only source of revenue," explained Snedden, all too aware that the IRB pockets the spoils from the lucrative television, sponsorship, merchandising, travel and hospitality revenue streams.

"It's costing us in excess of NZ$300m to run the tournament so we are heavily dependent upon ticketing. We had a really good start and have sold in excess of half a million match tickets and we're a little bit ahead of where we thought we would be at this stage which is pretty promising.

"Within that we've had a good uptake from overseas, with 20-25% of the tickets we've sold so far to people domiciled overseas. Most of them look like their coming from the UK, France and Australia which is pretty much what we would have expected."

Snedden is also confident they have got the ticket pricing right despite initial criticism when it was announced that tickets for the tournament finale would cost between NZ$390 (£170) and NZ$1250 (£545).

"We've got it right," he insisted. "What I found interesting was that in the first stage of selling tickets the most expensive tickets have been selling first, the pool matches that are priced heaviest, largely the ones at Eden Park, Wellington or Christchurch - they have been going before anything else. We're pretty happy about that but I am a little puzzled sometimes that tickets that are only priced at $15 or $30 are not flying out the door but I have a feeling that will be happening later on."

Despite the preconception that New Zealand is the heartland of the rugby-playing world, RNZ 2011, created by the New Zealand Rugby Union and the New Zealand Government to organise the tournament, faces a huge challenge to entice the wider population and ensure they reach their sales targets.

"It is an on-going battle," Snedden admitted. "But the beauty of the Rugby World Cup is that people can see that it is more than just rugby and that is how we are positioning it in New Zealand even though rugby is by far the most popular sport in the country. The reality is that in order to gather in that part of the population that aren't interested in rugby we are really stressing the whole event itself and the experience that is so special and I think that is a message that has been going very well. I sense that we have attracted the interest and with it the support of the wider population and I think that will just intensify in a positive way over the next 12 months.

"When we started this project there was this fear that New Zealanders would only concentrate on the fortunes of the All Blacks and might not take any notice of our visitors so a lot of what we have been doing is reminding people that there are 20 teams in this tournament - not one. This is not about the All Blacks winning the World Cup, it is about hosting the other teams and the thousands of visitors and making sure we do such a great job that the reputation of New Zealand is advanced significantly.

"That's the message we have been feeding into the public domain the last few months and it is a message that will intensity over the next year. I think it is something New Zealand will respond to strongly and ultimately we are going to deliver something very special in terms of the hosting. But you can never stop reminding people that is necessary."

Check back on Wednesday for the second part of our exclusive interview with Martin Snedden, where the RNZ 2011 chief addresses concerns over accomodation as well as the All Whites' FIFA World Cup campaign.

© Scrum.com
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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