2015 Rugby World Cup organisers aiming high


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The Independent Online

Organisers of the Rugby World Cup are confident that they will be able to feed off the enthusiasm of the summer Games and sell almost three million tickets for the tournament despite the economic downturn.

Tomorrow will mark three years to go to the start of the tournament, which will be held in up to 12 stadia across England and Wales.

British sports fans are still suffering withdrawal symptoms from the London Olympics and Paralympics, which were a huge success despite initial worries the public would be put off by high ticket prices.

With no sign of the economic recession coming to an end, families may well be hard pushed to afford many of the tickets when they go on sale, but the organising committee of the tournament, England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015), are hopeful that the public will be gripped by the event in the same way that they were by the Games.

ER 2015 have drawn up a long list of big-capacity sporting venues, including the Olympic Stadium, which they plan to use during the World Cup and they made it clear today that they expect bumper attendances in line with previous tournaments.

"If we fulfil our ambition to make this the best World Cup ever, then I think we will be more than capable of filling the stadia and selling 2.9 million tickets," ER 2015 Chairman Andy Cosslett told a press conference at Twickenham.

"We are hoping to make a profit of £100million, maybe a bit more.

"A lot will depend on the ticketing strategy, but we are very confident we will be able to capture the interest and the momentum that's built in this country in rugby specifically and sport in general because of what has happened (at the Olympics).

"Given there are only so many games and so many opportunities to watch the best in the world, we are pretty confident we will be able to manage that and turn out a good financial result."

ER 2015 will whittle down their long list of 20 stadia in to between 10 and 12 next month before announcing the host arenas at the start of the new year.

The use of the Olympic Stadium will be key to ER 2015's ability to deliver bumper crowds and profits.

Until the London Legacy Development Corporation decide who moves in to the London 2012 showpiece, the use of the stadium is still up in the air.

"We would be mad not to include it as part of our thinking," ER 2015 chief operating officer Ross Young said.

"Unfortunately there's still a bit of uncertainty about what exactly's going to happen with regard to full-time landlords for Olympic Park but we have engaged with the London Legacy Development Corporation from the very early part of this year."

Only two rugby club grounds - Leicester's Welford Road and Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium, were included in the original bid for the competition.

Football stadia like Old Trafford, St James' Park and Wembley were chosen ahead of other rugby grounds, but ER 2015 have no qualms about taking the games away from the oval ball stadia.

"To drive us near to three million tickets we have to engage with football clubs because they are the only ones who are going to give us the capacity to achieve those numbers," Young said.

One way ER 2015 are looking to learn from the Olympics is through Debbie Jevans, the director of sport for the London Organising Committee (LOCOG).

Jevans will leave her post at the end of the month and join ER 2015 as chief executive, replacing Paul Vaughan, who left by "mutual consent".

Cosslett said: "The board felt Debbie, with her exposure and being one of the architects of the Olympics and the Paralympics, was a new dimension that we didn't have."