How hosting the 2027 World Cup could save Australian rugby
Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos has promised the sport’s chance to reset and prosper won’t be missed after the country all but landed the hosting rights for the 2027 World Cup.
Australia was listed on Thursday by rugby’s governing body as the “preferred candidate” to host the global tournament, in what effectively ended a two-horse race with the United States.
The event – which Australia hosted in 1987 and 2003 – is being regarded as a “once-in-generation” opportunity for a financially stricken sport that contemplated a return to amateur status last year.
“Absolutely, it really will (move RA out of the red); it’s going to be a game-changer for us, both on and off the field,” Marinos said.
“It’s hugely significant; it gives us a pathway, optimism and an ability to reset the commercial landscape when you look at the opportunities ahead.”
The likely 2027 World Cup will be followed by an Olympic Games on home soil in 2032 in Brisbane.
“The focus is going to be on this part of the world, it’s a fantastic opportunity to latch on to,” Marinos said.
Profit from the 2003 World Cup was north of $40 million, but fast forward to April this year and RA was reporting a net deficit of $27.1 million.
That came after the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to destroy the game domestically, with Rugby Australia resorting to JobKeeper payments and saving almost $10 million in staff costs through redundancies.
At the time RA chairman Hamish McLennan admitted talk of returning to amateur status had been considered.
Acknowledging the lessons of the past, Marinos on Thursday stated RA had an obligation to set up rugby union long-term in Australia.
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“That’s been at the forefront of the board’s mind from the inception,” he said.
“This isn’t about getting a windfall and propping up artificially for a short-term gain.”
He also hoped the prospect of playing at a home World Cup would entice more talent – across all sports – to remain on Australian shores.
“It’s going to make a lot of the players playing abroad rethink and any thinking of going abroad,” he said.
“It’s a huge incentive to play in a World Cup on home soil, it’s a unique experience.
“Not only that but you’re talking about the 13, 14-year-olds that have an aspirational pathway now, across all the codes.”
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