Australia launches 2027 World Cup bid, organisers vow to not blow winnings if awarded tournament
Australia launches 2027 World Cup bid, organisers vow to not blow winnings if awarded tournament

Why 2027 Aussie World Cup won’t resemble 2003 cash fiasco

Almost two decades later, Rugby Australia is still kicking itself about messing up the ending to the 2003 World Cup.

It was a magnificent tournament by every measure - delivering record profits, record crowds and a final that still ranks as one of the most heart-stopping test matches ever played.

But it wasn't the fairytale ending Rugby Australia wanted or needed, both on and off the field.

Not only did the Wallabies lose the final to England in extra time, courtesy of Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal, but the Australian Rugby Union (now Rugby Australia) completely dropped the ball by squandering the $40 million surplus they pocketed from hosting the tournament.

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A fortune at the time, that money would have secured the financial future of rugby for generations to come if it had been properly invested but the ARU blew the lot and now the entire code is paying for it.

Two-time World Cup winner Phil Kearns is the executive director for Australia's 2027 bid.

He says he can't guarantee the Wallabies will win the 2027 tournament if it's held at home, but he says he can promise the game's custodians won't blow the windfall this time.

"Moving forward, some of the governance of the game will change. I think that was a hindrance back in the past," Kearns said at Thursday's official bid launch.

"I think once we get those structures right in the game, it'll be a much better direction in terms of where money will go.

"That's probably the biggest lesson. Making the most of the money that's there and having a pot there that we can use that won't be wasted.

"We have to have something as an enduring capital base for the game."

If Rugby Australia's doesn't blow it, hosting the 2027 Rugby World Cup could solve the code's rotten financial woes in one swoop.

The World Cup has grown so big since the last time it was held in Australia that the projections for 2027 make the profits from 2003 look like loose change.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup, held in Britain, generated $4.7 billion in economic output and attracted over 400,000 international visitors while the 2019 event in Japan generated $6.4 billion and even more foreign visitors.

Rugby Australia's forecasts are more modest because of the pandemic, but the bid team still expects to generate $2.5 billion in economic output, attract over 200,000 international visitors and sell more than two million tickets,

"I think this will really put a stake in the ground for our game," Kearns said.

"We had an opportunity in 2003 but it didn't work out the way we wanted it to work but I think we've learnt a lot of lessons from the past.

"I think we can do something really spectacular here."

The decision on who will host the 2027 World Cup will be made in a year's time. At this stage, Australia is the only candidate but no-one from the high-powered bid team is taking anything for granted, insisting it ain't over til it's over.

The immediate focus for the bid team is coming up with a shortlist of cities to host matches, with World Rugby stipulating that no more than 10 venues can be used.

That is sure to trigger a bidding war between rival Australian states for the marquee matches with Sydney and Melbourne vying for the final.

Kearns said Perth's Optus Stadium would also be considered because it has capacity for 60,000 spectators, the minimum required to host the final, but some cities may miss out on matches altogether.

This includes the nation's capital with Canberra Stadium, built in 1977, considered too old and too small.

"By the time of the World Cup, Canberra Stadium will be 50 years old so it doesn't qualify," Kearns.

"So Canberra will need to get a bit of a wriggle on if they want to get a World Cup game."






Rugby Australia have vowed that Aussies will get the lion's share of tickets for the 2027 World Cup after thousands of fans missed out on seats to the 2023 tournament in France.

The ticket launch for 2023 has been labelled a fiasco after the platform crashed multiple times, leaving thousands of foreign fans unable to get tickets before they were all snapped up.

Australian rugby fans have always been among the biggest purchasers of World Cup tickets, snapping up more than 250,000 tickets for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, so Rugby Australia wants to make plenty available for 2027.

Rugby Australia's executive director of the bid Phil Kearns said almost 1.5 million tickets would go to locals.

"We're planning on selling a bit over two million tickets," he said.

"We expect about 200,000 to 250,000 foreign visitors, who will go to an average of three games so there's 1.4 million tickets for Australians to buy."

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said it was too early to decide how much tickets would cost but organisers wanted to make them affordable so all Australians could attend games.

"What we want to do is make sure that it's an inclusive tournament so people aren't disadvantaged but we've also got to pay for it too," he said.

"We've got to win it first before we decide that but we're highly sensitive to (ticket prices) because it's one of the primary drivers along with media rights about how you pay for the whole thing.

"This is as much about getting a new generation of kids excited for the game so if they can't get to watch the quality games at a fair price, then it defeats the purpose of holding it here."



The decision by World Rugby to restrict the number of venues for future World Cups is threatening to turn Australia's 2027 bid into a hosting Hunger Games - with rival Australian states and cities facing the likelihood of competing against each other to secure lucrative matches.

With Queensland in the box seat to be awarded the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics, Australia's other states are now locked in a cutthroat war for other marquee sporting events to boost their flagging economies, and there's no bigger prize than the Rugby World Cup, one of the crown jewels of international sport.

Although the final decision on the 2027 host is not expected for another year, Australia is odds-on to be awarded the seven-week, 48-game tournament, which is expected to generate more than two million ticket sales and attract over 200,000 foreign visitors to supercharge the economic recovery after the global pandemic.

A high-powered team including former prime minister John Howard, International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates, captains of industry and sporting superstars has been assembled and the federal government is backing the bid all the way.

It's no wonder every state and city wants a piece of the action but there's a catch - the sport's world governing body has recently changed the rules so that host nations have to limit their number of venues to between 8-10.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and executive director, Rugby World Cup 2027 bid Phil Kearns with the Wallabies at Stadium Australia. Picture: Stuart Walmsley/Rugby Australia
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and executive director, Rugby World Cup 2027 bid Phil Kearns with the Wallabies at Stadium Australia. Picture: Stuart Walmsley/Rugby Australia

That will maximise profits - which Rugby Australia desperately needs to get the game back on its feet after spending every dollar it had without having anything left to show for it - but it means some cities and possibly even states and territories that hosted matches when Australia last held the World Cup, in 2003, are set to miss out this time.

No decisions have been made on which venues will be chosen but it's a safe bet that at least two, and possibly three, stadiums in Sydney will get picked along with at least one each in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Cities including Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Launceston, Gold Coast and Townsville will be left battling for the remaining spots.

The consolation for regions that miss out is that Rugby Australia is planning to encourage more of the visiting 19 foreign squads to visit them as training bases.

What's also certain is that the battle to host the semi-finals, third place playoff and the final will be fiercer than ever.

Sydney hosted the final four games in 2003 and while the Waratahs may not be able to win on the field at the moment, NSW has been first out of the blocks in making a pitch for 2027.


"This should be a 'Team Australia' bid. The most important thing first and foremost is to secure the bid for our nation," said Stuart Ayres, the NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney. "As home to the country's largest rectangular stadium, Sydney is the logical place to hold the final."

Rugby Australia's 2027 bid will be officially launched in Sydney on Thursday, with the final documentation to be completed by January 2022.

A decision on the host is expected in May next year.

At this stage, Australia is the only bidder.

Two-time World Cup winner and bid executive director Phil Kearns said: "Hosting Rugby World Cup 2027 would be a transformational moment for the game in this country and the Pacific, presenting an enormous opportunity to grow the game."


Originally published as Why 2027 Aussie World Cup won't resemble 2003 cash fiasco

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