[OPINION] South Africa does Not Need the 2023 Rugby World Cup
By Unathi Sonwabile Henama
Monday, 25 September 2017, will be D-Day as bids presentations shall be made for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. I was disappointed to learn that South Africa is bidding for the games, as South Africa does not need the Rugby World Cup. I will enthusiastically welcome the news that South Africa has failed in its bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, just like the disappointment of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The competing countries, which must make compelling bids to get a majority of votes amongst the 37 World Rugby Council members, are France, Ireland and South Africa. The World Rugby Council members shall vote on November 15 for the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The presentations will be in London, and the South Africa delegation is led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, South African Rugby Union (SARU) CEO Jurie Roux and SARU President Mark Alexander. It appears neither French President Emmanuel Macron nor Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will travel to London, to assist the French bid presentation, and this is interpreted as a snub by the French government. Bono for U2 will support the Irish bid, led by the Irish Prime Minister.
France and South Africa have previously hosted the tournament. Ireland has not hosted the Rugby World Cup on a full-time basis, whereas it hosted several matches in 1991 and 1999. The presence of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is seen as a boost for South Africa’s bid, showing that the government does support the bid. World Rugby, in its bid stipulations, places a premium on government support and government financial guarantees, to ensure there is never a financial compromise to the sport’s global governing body. World Rugby places government support and financial guarantees, as critical pre-requisite for a successful bid.
The bids of South Africa and France can be considered to be the most appealing considering their experience in hosting major events. South Africa is a rugby crazy country, but the truth is that France is the attractor of the best rugby talent in the world. The Irish government has promised a tournament like no other, and with 100% government support, the Irish have a competitive bid. France is willing to pay World Rugby 150 million pounds as a hosting fee to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup, an addition 30 million to the minimum 120 million pounds.
It is projected in research conducted by Grant Thornton, that hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 will bring South Africa R27.3 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact sustain 38 600 annual job equivalents – some temporary and some will be permanent. It is a known fact that economic projections about mega events are always grossly over-exaggerated because such untruths are music to the ears of politicians that preside over public funds. South Africa is still suffering from a huge debt accumulated when it hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first on African soil.
The total cost of hosting the FIFA World Cup was $3,8 billion, 10 times more than what was originally planned. The majority of World Cup stadia have become an economic pressure on municipal finances, as they were transferred by national government to municipalities. The Cape Town Stadium is an architectural gem, which is haemorrhaging money from the Cape Town municipality. The intangible legacy of the hosting mega events in South Africa is closely associated with pride and unity that sport is able to generate during such events.
That cannot be a reason enough for redirecting government spending towards a once-off mega event that would do more to depress the fiscus. International tourism arrivals have improved owing to a better image, and tourism has remained the new gold, which has shown a 13% year on year increases in international tourist arrivals. Developing countries have increasingly jumped on the mega event bandwagon, to the detriment of their citizens. Brazil is suffering from the immorality of hosting two mega events, the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, and it will take possibly a generation to clear that debt.
The costs of hosting mega events far outweigh the benefits. The money that the state could spend on hosting could better be spent on healthcare, education and improved safety and security as rampant crime is the primary dividend after 1994. Hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup is a nice to have and not a need to have. Tourism arrival can continue to grow if we reduce tourism red tape such as low aviation traffic because of closed skies and reducing visa regulations. These two measures could do more to ensure that South Africa attracts 5 million more tourists in line with the motto #WeDoTourism.
Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.
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