The 2015 Rugby World Cup is now two weeks old and we’ve already seen some titanic battles between some of the top sides in the competition, particularly this weekend’s fixture between England and Wales at Twickenham which went in favour of Warren Gatland’s side as England’s late gamble for victory went against them.
While Stuart Lancaster’s side are likely to be licking their wounds and preparing themselves for their must-win clash with Australia on Saturday, those looking after the financial side of things are in a much better position as it stands even if England fail to progress to the knock-out stages – and Manchester is preparing itself to get involved in the action.
The use of the much larger football stadiums has come under criticism from die-hard rugby union supporters across the United Kingdom who can’t see why the purpose-built rugby stadiums are being overlooked in favour of the likes of Elland Road in Leeds, Villa Park in Birmingham and the AMEX Stadium in Brighton.
However, you only need to look at the record attendance at Wembley over the weekend when Ireland trounced Romania 44-10 to see that the reasoning is clear – more fans and more money,
Rugby has never been as financially lucrative as football, but this World Cup has the chance to bring some much-needed investment into the British game. According to a study by Ernst & Young, the six-week tournament being held in cities across England and Wales has the potential to bring in around £2.2 billion to the economy through transport, tourism, ticket and merchandise sales and accommodation.
Obviously a lot of the attention so far has been on the on-field action, with the “big guns” in the tournament already brushing aside some of the “minnows” with the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Ireland blowing away some of their opposition so far; but we’ve already seen what many dubbed to be “the biggest sporting upset of all time” when Japan beat South Africa on the opening weekend.
While this clash, played down on the south coast in Brighton, was some distance from the major cities where tourists would have spent more money, the local economy would have felt the benefit from packed hotels and restaurants feeding the travelling supporters and putting Brighton on the map for historical rugby union purposes – and who would’ve thought that?
Now, Manchester is awaiting its turn to get in on the action. The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City, is to host England against Uruguay on 10th October – it’s only fixture of the competition – and the North West could receive a much-needed boost as fans flock to the North to watch England, who play all of their other home matches at Twickenham.
Hotels, transport and merchandise sales are expected to reap the rewards and the game, typically given a “southern” stereotype, could encourage more youngsters to pick up the sport with local side Sale Sharks the most local professional club in the region hoping to pick up some new supporters as rugby fever grips.