Leicester slam World Cup venue snub
October 8, 2012
Welford Road will not host a 2015 World Cup match © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers have hit out at the decision by the organisers for the 2015 World Cup to not include Welford Road on the list of possible venues for the tournament.
England Rugby 2015, that has included just one club rugby ground - Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium - in a list of 17 venues that will now vie for the chance to play host to games during the 48-match tournament, revealed that concerns over the size of the playing surface that arose during an extensive audit scuppered Welford Road's chances of playing host to the world's best sides.
Instead, ER2015 has opted to give Leicester City FC's King Power Stadium the nod in a decision that has provoked an angry response from Tigers' chairman Peter Tom. "We are hugely disappointed to learn that Welford Road will not play a part in England's hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2015," Tom said. "When the International Rugby Board awarded the World Cup to the country that gave this sport to the world we saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the international game and also the professional club game here. Leicester Tigers wanted to be part of that.
"Welford Road has hosted many, many major occasions over the years, including visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in recent seasons. It is home to the best-supported and most successful club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as such, we believe is worthy of World Cup status."
Leicester have contributed hugely to England's past and present success - they have seven players in the current Elite Player Squad - and back in 2003, it was the Tigers' skipper Martin Johnson who lifted the William Webb Ellis Cup - something that Tom was keen to emphasise.
"Leicester Tigers has always been a forward-thinking and progressive club, and has played an important role in the development and promotion of the game in this country," Tom emphasised. "Who can forget that both head coach and captain of England's World Cup-winning team in 2003, and several other members of the squad and backroom staff, spent major parts of their own careers in Leicester colours? The current England squad also contains a sizeable number of Leicester players, many of whom have been introduced to the sport as fans at Welford Road and have come through the club's academy structure to first-team and then international honours.
"It is that kind of heritage and dedication to the development of the game that makes the name of Leicester Tigers and Welford Road stadium known throughout the rugby-playing world."
Welford Road boasts an impressive capacity of 24,000, which is the largest in the Premiership, but it was not enough to persuade ER 2015 to overlook the constraints of their pitch. "That the organisers of RWC2015 do not think this an appropriate venue for its fixtures is disappointing and confusing both for the professional club game in this country and for its supporters," Tom continued. "Leicester Tigers has the largest community of rugby supporters of any club in the country and the club invested £15million in building the new Caterpillar Stand in 2009 to take Welford Road's capacity up to 24,000.
"A programme of development will continue to improve facilities and the match day experience for players, supporters and corporate guests. It is disappointing that this investment is not rewarded with World Cup status while many other venues on the proposed list do not show that level of commitment to our sport. We wish all of the Leicester Tigers players who will be representing their national teams at RWC2015 every success in it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside
"He had a death stare so you'd know when you were wrong." George Kruis talks about his mentor Borthwick, fly-fishing and his England aspirations