Sport and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi hinted that the government would soon formally support the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2023 bid after meeting with SA Rugby at their offices yesterday.
SA Rugby has continued with its bid application for rugby’s showpiece event in six years’ time despite no formal government backing following a directive from former sports minister Fikile Mbalula.
In April last year, Mbalula revoked rugby’s privilege of hosting and bidding for major and mega international tournaments in South Africa as a “consequence of not meeting their own set transformation targets”.
Three other sporting codes were similarly penalised.
SA Rugby needs the government to underwrite the associated costs of putting on the global showpiece‚ not least of which is World Rugby’s fee in the region of R2-billion.
An Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Sports Transformation‚ chaired by Dr Willie Basson‚ which recommended the sanction last yearbased on its findings over the course of the previous year‚ has completed a review of the situation over the past 12 months.
“The EPG report is there and left for us to study it‚ release it and make an announcement because the issue of our support hinges and is dependent on its findings‚” Nxesi said.
“I won’t pre-empt it‚ but we will make an announcement very soon. In terms of nation building, the Soccer World Cup in 2010 was important. There are a lot of white supporters now watching local soccer‚ so [hosting a major event] is very important.
“We have the stadiums that were built for 2010 and the other infrastructure that is in place. For RWC 2023 you don’t have to start from scratch‚ so the cost would be seriously reduced.
“It depends on how government views it from a financial viewpoint‚ and most of the infrastructure‚ which is the biggest cost‚ is in place.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander gave nothing away‚ but the body language and smiles suggested that a much-needed formal backing of the bid is imminent.
“It was important to meet with the minister and find common ground‚” Alexander said.
“Today was like an induction programme for the minister. We took him through all our initiatives and had good discussions.
“I’m positive about what will come with the EPG report review because we are on track. We measure our progress and it will be announced soon.
“The government allowed us to run, pending us receiving a pass mark from the EPG. We have a formidable bid that will deliver similar ticket sales numbers to England in 2015.
“We have great stadiums that are all-seaters‚ and we stand a good chance of winning this bid.
“It’s long overdue and would be good for South Africa.
“When you consider that tourism makes up between 6 to 9% of the county’s GDP‚ and sport tourism is a large portion of it‚ it’s a no-brainer to host RWC 2023 at a nominal cost because of the infrastructure already in place.
“The economic impact alone is projected to be R28.3-billion to the economy.”
Nxesi was also brought up to speed on the situation regarding two Super Rugby franchises being axed from the competition as from next year.
“I was briefed about the Super Rugby situation and I had questions about what it means for the affected clubs‚” Nxesi said.