'Right runway' has rugby believing in 'a billion-dollar World Cup'
World Rugby boss Alan Gilpin has shrugged off fears that selling 2031 World Cup tickets in the USA will be a hard sell, claiming that the governing body has an uplifting history from Japan 2019 in combatting doubts about the game’s appeal in host countries that aren’t traditionally rugby hotbeds. The current CEO was tournament director when the decision was taken to stage the event in the Far East for the first time and it ultimately was a roar away success despite some misgivings from elsewhere in the lead-up.
Now in the wake of the USA officially getting the rights to stage the 2031 tournament in another place that represents virgin territory for the World Cup, Gilpin has claimed that any negatively about the sport’s lack of appeal to Americans will be swept aside as happened three years ago in Japan.
Speaking after the USA has won the race to stage the men’s tournament in nine years’ time, along with the 2033 women’s World Cup, Gilpin said in Dublin: “Even a couple of years out people were saying about Japan 2019 you are never going to sell tickets for this tournament. Every single game was sold out.
“We have got a bit of a history of doing this and what we have got here very deliberately is the right type of runway with the team to build that interest. Yes, there is a lot of work to do in building the awareness of the sport in the US but this is a market that gets big events and that is what we are going to talk to them about.
“We will for sure see a tournament that’s bigger than a billion-dollar World Cup. I’m hoping we get there in one of the ones before 2031. We have some good confidence in our colleagues at Rugby Australia about that,” Gilpin said.
“We look at the USA opportunity in the same way that we looked at the opportunity in Japan. First of all, it’s a great place to deliver outstanding tournaments and have those really big moments in sports that gets fans and players really excited. There’s no doubt that the two biggest growth opportunities we have are the USA and the women’s game.”
Ross Young, the CEO of USA Rugby, added to the belief that the 2031 tournament can deliver an overall attendance in excess of three million fans. “We have got 28 venues of over 60,000, we have got a couple over 100,000, that is the easy part in some ways.
“The tough part is going to be the intangibles around the engagement, getting rugby balls in young boys and girls’ hands now that will allow them to get a taste for what the game is about because everyone has spoken about the aspirational feeling around the hosting of the event. It isn’t going to be easy but 48 games across the country in the right venues that are put together in the right way is eminently achievable but we are very confident.
“Part of the philosophy around the bid in general was to make it a mega event so we want the average crowds to be as high as possible… we want to get as near as we can to the three million-plus across the tournament. It has to be a goal that the targets are at the right level and we achieve it for sure.”
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