Why World Rugby would relish USA World Cup bid
SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby would welcome a bid by the United States to host the 2027 or 2031 World Cups as “there is no commercial market like the United States”, the governing body’s CEO Brett Gosper said Monday.
China and the USA have as markets thus far remained largely immune from the charms of rugby – though Asia as a continent has reacted favourably in terms of numbers taking up the game since the successful hosting of the World Cup in Japan last year.
USA Rugby, however, has been through the wringer this year, only emerging out of bankruptcy on September 1.
A few days later a collection of US rugby stakeholders announced they would study the capabilities of staging a World Cup, with USA Rugby planning a February presentation to World Rugby.
Both the 2027 and 2031 editions will be decided at the same time, with bids facing a January 2022 deadline.
Women’s Rugby World Cups in 2025 and 2029 are also up for grabs.
“We think it’s a desirable thing if there is a good candidature from the United States,” Gosper told a few journalists via Zoom from his Dublin base on Monday.
“Obviously it is a market of huge growth potential, both player-based and fan-based, and for commercial revenues.
“But they will be be in competition with other candidates and that will be weighed up by the evaluation system.”
Gosper said the USA would be a “very strong contender”, adding that hosting the quadrennial showpiece could ultimately prove pivotal in finally cracking the elusive American market.
“There is no commercial market like the United States,” said the 61-year-old Australian former advertising executive.
“That doesn’t mean it’s an easy market to break into, but it would appear it needs the force of something as substantial as a RWC [Rugby World Cup] to really realise the potential of that market.
“We will be watching with interest if they bid and how well they bid.”
‘Momentum is maintained’
Gosper is enthused by the manner in which the domestic governing body has clambered back up off the canvas.
“They [USA Rugby] are definitely rebounding well in terms of their governance structures, they certainly have ambition around that RWC area,” he said.
“They have got a reasonably new MLR [domestic] competition but with some serious structures and ambitions in that which provides a great talent reservoir for them.
“So I think things are well set-up and well structured and certainly coming out of the challenges they had financially, they are much more fit for purpose to be a strong force going forward.”
However, Gosper says to really grab the imagination and passionate support of the general population the XV side has to improve.
The US men’s team have played in all but one Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. But they have lost 22 of the 25 games played, and remained winless in the last two editions.
“Although they performed competitively at the last RWC, there was nothing to bring new audience in with great impact, the time zones were incredibly challenging from a live sport basis,” he said.
“It’s very important their XVs team becomes more competitive and knocks on the door of a quarterfinal.
“That’s going to be a reach for 2023 but it is possible for a nation with that talent base.”
Gosper, though, can only dream that the US will follow Japan’s example should they get to host the World Cup.
“That’s a bit of an obsession by us, to ensure that that momentum is maintained,” he said.
“They went from being the No.7 broadcast market to being No.3 and not that far behind the broadcast markets of UK and France.
“It is our job to sustain that interest and the best way to sustain that interest is a high-profile, high-performing Japanese national side, otherwise the fans will disappear and it will be very hard for us to get them back.”