Irish MEP blames Brexit for failed Irish Rugby World Cup bid

The all-Ireland bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 has been overlooked by organisers in favour of South Africa
The all-Ireland bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 has been overlooked by organisers in favour of South Africa

Brexit has been blamed for a great many things, and now an Irish MEP has cited the UK’s decision to split from the EU as a deciding factor in Ireland’s failed Rugby World Cup bid.

The tournament’s organising board on Tuesday recommended South Africa as the tournament hosts in 2023, ahead of Ireland and France.

According to Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly, the implications of Brexit may be to blame for Ireland’s “dashed hopes”.

He said: “In my opinion, this outcome could be put down to Brexit and the uncertainty the UK’s departure from the EU has created for Northern Ireland and surrounding the question of a hard or soft border, security checks and so on. This is the hard reality of Brexit and the damage it poses for all citizens on the island of Ireland.

“Despite the EU27’s strong commitment to the island of Ireland and the fact that no one wants to see the return of a hard border, the slow progress of Brexit negotiations and apparent instability of the UK government may have added to that uncertainty in recent months. Brexit would have been a factor in the decision-making process for such a large-scale tournament,” said Mr Kelly.

While Fine Gael feel the bid is dead in the water, the Irish Sport Minister Shane Ross has not given up hope.

He said: “This is a difficult setback but one that we can overcome.”

The Rugby World Cup board judged the three bids from Ireland, France and South Africa based on each country’s vision and hosting concept, tournament organisation and schedule, venues and host cities, tournament infrastructure, and finance, commercial and commitments.

South Africa ranked highest with 78.97%, France second with 75.88% and Ireland third with 72.25%.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said there were “three exceptional bids”.

The World Rugby Council will now meet on November 15 to vote on the next host based on the recommendation from the Rugby World Cup’s organising board.

On reflection, Mr Kelly said: “In a future, post-Brexit scenario, a sole Republic of Ireland bid may be a more viable option.”