The Rugby World Cup (RWC) is one of the biggest sporting events globally, delivering a huge financial and tourism boost to the nation that hosts it. The 2015 finals in England were estimated to have created almost £1billion of economic value and to have supported 41,000 jobs, both in the build up to and during the tournament.
Ireland is one of four nations bidding to host the 2023 finals - along with South Africa, France and Italy. The French and South Africans have held the tournament previously, whilst Italy is considered one of rugby’s weaker nations. All of which makes Ireland many people’s favourites to be awarded hosting rights.
The final decision on who will host the 2023 tournament won’t be taken until May 2017, but an initial proposal must be submitted by each bidding nation this coming June. And whilst a number of towns and cities around Ireland seem likely to be selected to host games in the Irish bid, Derry is the only one of Ireland's six main cities that has been completely overlooked.
Steve Bradley is spokesperson for the 'Derry For 2023' campaign. As a Derryman based in the rugby-mad city of Bath, he recently studied the impact of major sporting and cultural events as part of a Masters degree in Urban Regeneration. He is concerned that Derry and the North-West is about to miss out on the economic windfall that an Irish Rugby World Cup would bring. He commented "The biggest sporting event on the planet in 2023 will be the Rugby World Cup. If it comes to Ireland it will be the biggest spectacle ever staged here, providing global exposure to the towns and cities involved. Derry has everything needed to successfully host group games in the tournament. Yet we're being completely overlooked by those behind the bid".
Each bid to host the Rugby World Cup needs to identify 12 stadiums capable of holding matches in. With few rugby grounds in Ireland big enough, the GAA has agreed to make eight of its venues available. It is therefore expected that the Irish proposal will include three stadiums in Dublin, two each in Belfast and Limerick, and one each in Cork, Galway, Thurles, Killarney and Castlebar.
Here is list of Stadium locations across Ireland being Considered for Ireland's 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid:
"The North-west has a huge amount to offer Ireland's bid. Derry is the fourth biggest city on the island, with a unique tourism product. We've shown through the Fleadh, City of Culture, Clipper Race and the Halloween Festival that we can hold major events here. In Celtic Park we have a city-centre stadium with the potential to hold group-stage games, which would cost less to upgrade than some of the other GAA grounds proposed. And with the IRFU emphasising the cross-border nature of the Irish bid as a positive, adding Ireland's only cross-border regional capital would make perfect sense. Derry and the North-west belong in Ireland's Rugby World Cup bid, and it would be a weaker proposal without them".
The campaign is calling for every resident, politician, sports lover and business owner across the north-west - including Donegal, Fermanagh and Tyrone - to recognise the opportunity that the Rugby World Cup would bring to the region, and to support the call for Derry to be included.
Mr Bradley concluded "If the eyes of the sporting world are looking at Ireland in seven years time, we must ensure Derry won't be left in the shadows. It's just too big an opportunity to let slip by".
To find our more about the campaign and to add your support visit www.DerryFor2023.com.
There is also a Facebook page : www.facebook.com/DerryFor2023, and on Twitter at @DerryFor2023.