World Rugby’s decision to cancel two games at the Rugby World Cup is set to cost millions, and if Sunday’s decider between Japan and Scotland fails to go ahead, more than £20m will be shelled out to fans in ticket refunds.
The choice to cancel England’s Pool C match with France as well as New Zealand’s Pool A encounter with Italy was made all the more apparent on Saturday morning as Typhoon Hagibis approached landfall in Japan, with the storm generating destructive wind speeds and torrential rainfall.
Over the next 24 hours, the worst tropical cyclone to hit Japan in 60 years will leave a trail of destruction across the Kanto region in what has been described by meteorologist Dr Jeff Masters as “a multibillion dollar disaster”. Those living in the Chiba and Kawasaki prefectures were advised to evacuate on Saturday morning where possible.
Before the tournament got underway, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper declared that Japan 2019 will draw in the highest revenues through ticket sales so far, with the £360m total surpassing the £333m accrued at England 2015. Though money from ticket sales goes to the host organisers, World Rugby will earn substantial figures through broadcasting rights, sponsorship and other commercial revenues, according to their financial statements.
However, their profits – described as “surplus” – are expected to drop from the £163m drawn from 2015 due to additional organisational costs, and with these match cancellations now impacting all broadcasters, sponsors and commercial partners – as well as full tickets refunds – costs are set to spiral well beyond the £30m barrier.
World Rugby are insured to cover the losses, meaning there will not be any long-term damage to the governing body, beyond what it’s suffered to its reputation.
But that figure will soar if Sunday’s match in Yokohama is cancelled, and if Saturday was anything to go by, it is almost beyond imagination how the final pool fixture can go ahead.
A defiant Japanese team arrived at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo for their captain’s run, only to find the entrance to the pitch severely flooded, forcing the players to wade through waist-high water to leave the changing rooms. That was just the start of the ordeal, with Hagibis not due to make landfall until the evening, where winds up to 150mph will batter the capital and the surrounding area.
Scotland are also intent for the match to go ahead given their knockout-stage hopes rely on victory, but if World Rugby’s efforts to deliver the fixture – behind closed doors if necessary – fall short, costs are likely to surge towards the £50m barrier.
A stadium inspection will take place on Sunday morning as early as possible, where the first task will be to assess the damage caused by Hagibis and decide whether the game can be safely held. If the fixture gets the green light, the second task will be to decide if it is safe for fans to attend.
A World Rugby spokesman said: “Our primary consideration is the safety of everyone. We will undertake detailed venue inspections as soon as practically possible after the Typhoon has passed and an update will be published as soon as that process has been undertaken in the morning.
“Our message to fans continues to be stay indoors today, stay safe and monitor official Rugby World Cup social and digital channels.”
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