A successful bid by the IRFU would require the use of some of the major GAA venues, to which the GAA is amenable to. Many people will remember that in 2005, the GAA voted to allow Croke Park to be used to host ‘foreign’ games during the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road, despite much criticism from within, and outside of, their own organisation. This led to Croke Park hosting some of the most memorable occasions in Irish sporting history, particularly the Ireland-England Six Nations game of 2007 and the Munster-Leinster Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009.
In terms of providing GAA grounds, Mr. Duffy notes that “…a successful bid will involve an upgrade of facilities….We have made it clear that such upgrades must be funded, in large part, by government.” It is not specified as to what constitutes ‘in large part’. While the GAA may be admirably patriotic in making its grounds available on the basis of the benefit to the country, there is also a financial incentive for the GAA themselves. On pages 5 and 7 of the Central Council report, the rent earned by the GAA from 2007-2010 by making Croke Park available to the IRFU and FAI is clearly seen, and was approximately €8m per year.
One might infer from Mr. Duffy’s statement above that such upgrades would notbe undertaken if Ireland was not to host a RWC. If the government must fund ‘a large part’ of any upgrades to ensure the RWC takes place, then should the government not be entitled to a ‘large part’ of any rent the GAA receives, as well as a ‘large part’ of any future gains accruing to the GAA as a result of such upgrades? If the GAA is to solely benefit from the RWC in terms of stadium rent earned, why should the government subsidise such upgrades, especially when any money spent on upgrading GAA facilities is money that cannot be spent on health, education, flood defences, etc.?
One might argue that the government should commit to investing in GAA grounds to ensure that a bid may be successful. In return, the government will benefit from the spending of visitors to Ireland during the RWC, as well as the intangible and symbolic benefits of hosting the tournament. While initial reports (see here and here) made reference to potential benefits of up to €800m, in another previous post, I pointed out that many economists have argued that, for various reasons, the net monetary benefits to country of hosting a major event are often found to be either negative or close to zero. On the other hand, hosting major events can make people happier, as pointed out here by Robbie Butler. Indeed, such intangible benefits seem to be a major justification for the bid. According to Minister of State Michael Ring in this article, "We all witnessed the massive boost to the national mood that was provided by the London Olympics. The Rugby World Cup,…, I would hope it would have a similar impact here. Sport is a great unifier, it brings people together and large events like this can also bring about a great sense of pride." Whether Mr Ring thinks the London Olympics’ £9bn (approx.) price tag was a price worth paying for the massive boost to the national mood is not known. Maybe he wasn’t asked.