September 18 - With exactly two years to go until the start of the England 2015 Rugby World Cup, organisers have today predicted that the event will generate more than £150 million ($240 million/€179 million) in surplus funds that will be invested back into the game.
International Rugby Board (IRB) chief executive and Rugby World Cup Limited managing director Brett Gosper revealed that the eighth staging of the Rugby World Cup will see a record amount of extra money available to reinvest into the development and promotion of the game at all levels.
Gosper was speaking at an event here today, marking the two-year countdown to the start of rugby's premier international tournament, where the London based company was unveiled as the Official Law Firm of Rugby World Cup 2015 following on from a similar partnership for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
"In exactly two years, England will host one of the biggest sporting and cultural festivals the country has ever seen," Gosper said.
"For 44 days, the world's top 700 players representing 20 nations will be performing to a global audience of four billion across 13 venues the length and breadth of the country, showcasing rugby and the host nation.
"The benchmark in terms of surplus success, which is the money invested back into the game is France 2007, which was £120 million ($192 million/€144 million), and we believe that England will situate itself above £150 million ($240 million/€179 million).
"So that is quite a significant uplift coming out of what you would call harder economic times, and it will be a very strong result for rugby."
Gosper was joined at the event by IRB head of rugby and Rugby World Cup tournament director Kit McConnell, European Rugby Association (FIRA-AER) President and newly-elected International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Octavian Morariu, and IRB head of commercial, broadcast and marketing Murray Barnett.
Barnett revealed that with two years to go, a record number of commercial partners have already signed up to sponsor the 2015 tournament, including French bank Société Générale, drinks company Heineken and car manufacturer Land Rover, while another two partners were "hovering above the dotted line" and were close to agreeing deals.
Barnett also said that he expected record broadcasting deals to be announced in the near future, with UK media company ITV, a long term partner of the Rugby World Cup, acting as host broadcaster.
McConnell announced the launching of the IMPACT campaign, to coincide with the countdown, which aims to grow rugby participation by more than one million by 2016, through working in partnership with IRB events including England 2015 and Japan 2019, Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 and the IRB Junior World Championships.
The new campaign says it will focus on six key pillars of integration, member unions, participation, awareness, competition and tools that will enable Unions to attract and support participation growth while growing sustainable business models for the sport.
Meanwhile, today also saw the launch of the "Posts in the Park" campaign to mark the two-year countdown to the tournament, which runs from September 18 to October 31, 2015.
Former England captain and Rugby World Cup winner in 2003 Lawrence Dallaglio was on hand at Cranford Community College in Hounslow to mark the occasion.
As part of the campaign, aimed at broadening the appeal of rugby and reaching out to new audiences, up to 100 posts will be installed in parks in the 10 English host cities including London, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Leeds, Brighton, Gloucester and Exeter.
Each host city has received up to 10 specially designed posts supplied by the RFU which will be installed by tournament time.
"Two years out from the tournament and we are already seeing the impact of Rugby World Cup 2015 being hosted in England," said Dallaglio.
"Posts in the Parks is a great concept - to see 100 rugby posts going up in parks all across the country is a real opportunity to raise interest and awareness of the game.
"For the RFU to have a legacy programme in place now means that more people can have access to rugby - not only in the lead-up and during the tournament, but long afterwards."
England Rugby 2015 says preparations for the event, which will see a total of 48 matches taking place, are on track, with the Organising Committee now consisting of 50 staff, and they also revealed that over 80 bids from more than 30 counties in England and Wales have been received to become official team bases when the rugby world descends on the UK in two years time.
A tournament volunteer programme will be launched in early 2014, which will see 6,000 volunteers recruited for the Rugby World Cup - 75 per cent coming from existing rugby club volunteer networks and 25 per cent from outside the game, while an international and domestic Webb Ellis trophy tour will bring the cup to most qualifying nations and then all around the UK and Ireland.
Kick-off times and details of ticketing for the games will be announced by the end of the year.
"In the last 12 months we have achieved a great deal and laid the foundations - two years out we are on track and in good shape," said England Rugby 2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans.
"We are now focused on finalising the kick-off times and the ticketing strategy by the end of the year.
"As we move into 2014 we begin to fully engage and mobilise our plans with the launch of the volunteer programme, international Webb Ellis Cup tour and tickets going on sale."
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