Investment in Northern Ireland stadiums included in a cross-border bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup will only follow if the bid is successful, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has said.
Mr Hamilton was asked about the NI Executive’s planning for the 2023 World Cup by Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty.
Mr McNulty asked the Minister to “outline any plans or preparations the Executive has made to help host a potential 2023 Rugby World Cup by Ireland, including capital investments planned; capital financial assistance programmes for bodies seeking to provide sporting facilities to facilitate a bid; and discussions held with sporting bodies about a bid.”
Mr Hamilton replied: “An Interdepartmental Group chaired by the Head of the NI Civil Service has been established to ensure that Executive Departments play a full and supportive role to help develop a winning IRFU bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
“Costs associated with any upgrades to stadia as a result of a successful bid have been factored into the Rugby World Cup costings. Kingspan, Casement Park and Celtic Park are all included on the long list of possible stadiums.
“There is no capital assistance programme for bodies seeking to provide sporting facilities to facilitate a bid. Investment in such facilities will only occur after we have won the bid.
“Whilst my officials have not been in direct discussions with sporting bodies, other than the Ulster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union, I understand the bid Team have had several meetings with relevant bodies and will continue to do so when appropriate.”
The Rugby World Cup bid was launched amid huge fanfare in November.
Philip Browne, chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), confirmed at that time that the Irish government has underwritten the £120million tournament fee.
But he said with two million tickets to sell and a knock-on impact on the economy, the six-week competition would be worth 800 million euro (£692million) to Ireland.
Because of the close proximity to England, Scotland and Wales, Mr Browne predicted an Irish World Cup would be the best ever attended.
“It is probably the biggest event Ireland could ever hope to host,” he added.