'Premiership grounds must be World Cup training bases'
October 11, 2012
Premiership Rugby chief Mark McCafferty has urged World Cup organisers to embrace rugby's traditional grounds © Getty Images
Premiership Rugby chief Mark McCafferty has urged World Cup organisers to embrace the sport's traditional heartlands as training bases after they were largely ignored on the list of potential match venues.
Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium is the only Premiership ground in the running to play a central role in the 2015 showpiece with Leicester's Welford Road ground a notable omission from the 17-venue long list announced earlier this week.
McCafferty accepts the desire on part of organisers England Rugby 2015, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Rugby Football Union, to sell a target of 2.9m tickets and meet the cost of the £80m hosting fee while generating a profit in the region of £80-£100m that will fund the future development of the game, but he insists they will be jeopardising the legacy of the tournament if they ignore the grass roots of the game.
"We are disappointed for Leicester," McCafferty told the Daily Telegraph. "Presumably, what Rugby World Cup 2015 are trying to do is strike the balance between heritage and opening the game up to new audiences.
"We understand ER 2015 have got to sell 2.9 million tickets and there is a huge guarantee of £80 million to be paid to the International Rugby Board. We also understand that they have to use big football stadiums to do that. But we need to make sure that they recognise the heart of rugby in this country and do the next best thing by making sure the teams are based around the clubs and we can build an engagement plan around that that brings in people from the area."
McCafferty suggested that basing a team like New Zealand at Bath's Recreation Ground home could have a lasting impact on the club and the game in general. "World Cup matches may not be able to be played at the Recreation Ground, but if you attach a big team to the ground and the community, then you have a good chance of keeping people both playing the game and coming to watch Bath afterwards.
"One of the things we have to work with ER 2105 on is trying ensure that we don't just put 2.9 million people through a watching experience during the World Cup but then very few if any of them come regularly after that to club games and internationals.
"To open up the market we need to have a legacy plan for how to keep a percentage of those people engaged in watching rugby and supporting it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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