Kingsholm ready to rock for World Cup 2015 audition
Kingsholm, the one English club rugby stadium still on the list of potential venues for World Cup matches in a little under three years' time, will put its best foot forward tonight – and summon its loudest, most blood-curdling primeval roar from the length-of-the-field terrace known as The Shed – when Gloucester take on the touring Fijians.
With a big crowd and a sense of occasion guaranteed, the West Countrymen hope this one-off fixture will swing the argument their way when the big decisions on 2015 are made after Christmas.
"I don't think we can do any more in terms of the process, but this game should provide more evidence of what Kingsholm can deliver in terms of rugby spirit," said Chris Ferguson, the club's acting managing director. "It would mean a great deal to the city if we could play some part in a home World Cup. In the eyes of many, Gloucester is defined by rugby: the whole community is right behind us.
"Just recently, I was speaking at a networking event for local business people and the first time I mentioned the World Cup bid, there was a spontaneous burst of applause and a big cheer. Those businesses want to help, want to be involved. Their support is as unequivocal as that of the people who play and watch rugby in the city."
For many union aficionados up and down the country, not least those who live in the East Midlands, the bidding for World Cup venue status has been a source of anger and frustration. Leicester supporters are still apoplectic at the decision of the tournament planners to leave Welford Road, the biggest club ground in the country by a distance, off the 17-strong long list – a move that led to questions in the House of Commons. But as the last Premiership club standing in terms of the stadium debate, Gloucester are determined to make the cut.
"We believe we've made a strong case in conjunction with the city council, the support of which is crucial in allowing us to commit to certain commercial demands," Ferguson said.
"Having the Fijians here at this point in proceedings can only assist us in our quest, but in many ways, we have already made the most eloquent statement in terms of our candidacy by successfully hosting the game between the Barbarians and Ireland at the end of last season. We drew a very big crowd, even though Gloucester weren't playing. I think we proved then that if the World Cup comes to our city, we'll put on a show."
The Rugby Football Union needs an average gate of around 60,000 across the 48 matches if it is to meet financial guarantees and turn a profit for itself, hence the decision to stack the long list with major football grounds – Wembley, Old Trafford and Villa Park among them – together with Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium and the Olympic Stadium. But not every World Cup game will be a natural blockbuster. Kingsholm may hold only 16,500, but it will earn its keep if selected.
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