2015 World Cup seeks stadia commitment
October 2, 2012
Manchester United's Old Trafford has been used for rugby in the past © Getty Images
Former Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron has claimed that the Premier League football clubs have a "moral obligation" to allow the 2015 Rugby World Cup organisers to use their stadia during the global gathering in three years' time.
England Rugby 2015 - the organisers behind the World Cup - has to confirm which stadiums will be used in the tournament by early next year but the Premier League is yet to grant permission for its grounds to be available. Baron claims that when the original deal for England to host the World Cup was brokered, the organisation in charge of England's top-flight football sides gave its guarantee that they would support the bid.
Premier League has since cited a potential fixture clash with the tournament but Baron is adamant that it must surrender use of its stadiums. "I am not surprised things are coming to the crunch at this time," Baron told the Daily Telegraph. "But as far as I am concerned all the stadiums in our bid have all signed venue-guarantee letters and they are legally obligated to provide their stadiums subject to resolving the actual dates.
"Of course you always had to address the scheduling issues much nearer the time. You couldn't do it eight years in advance. What you can do eight years' in advance is make an absolute, unequivocal commitment that you are going to provide your stadium and honour the clean stadium conditions and that you will work in good faith to find solutions to the scheduling problems when they arise nearer the date. They all have strong obligation, both moral and legal, to deliver."
Baron is optimistic that some compromise will be agreed citing the recent success of the Olympics as one reason why the country should rally round the World Cup.
"I have no doubt it will all be resolved amicably and in a businesslike manner, but clearly you can't leave it to June 2015 to do that and I am sure Premier League wouldn't want to leave it until then either," Baron said. "It is important for the Premier League, the RFU and the Government to show that we can again showcase the UK in hosting a major global event and repeat the success of the Olympics. The public will expect nothing less.
"All the stadiums in our bid document were fantastically helpful and totally supportive of the England bid, as was the Premier League, and I am sure that has not changed."
While Baron is optimistic that a deal will be done, the Premier League's chief executive Richard Scudamore is more cautious. "It's quite difficult because we won't have a fixture list until July 2015 for that period, but we are talking to them about the practicalities," Scudamore said. "We will do what we can, but what we can do is limited.
"If we can accommodate rugby around that, then of course we will and we would be happy to. With the Olympics, our start date went back to August 18 when we might ordinarily have started on the 11th. That's because we respected that had to happen. But there is only so much you can do in cities in terms of fitting the matches in. In Manchester, for instance, we would have City or United playing on each weekend."
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