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Thursday, April 22, 2010

World Cup venues: The RFUW reply

RFUW have responded to the recent articles on here about the apparent lack of seats at the Surrey Sports Park in particular, as well as the choice of venue for the final. Its the longest and most detailed explanation I have yet seen, and certainly helps understand their thinking. Pity it has taken so long for it to come out. Also if RFUW are now going to start responding to criticism positively in the future instead of either pretending it didn't exist (or issuing veiled threats) it is also a very welcome development. Criticisms on here (and elsewhere) of RFUW policies and decisions are not negative - we all want as strong a game as possible. They come from the RFUW's tendency to make decisions without consultation, explanation, or full consideration of the consequences (the proposed junior leagues being a case in point - more on them later). If that could change then maybe the criticisms would disappear.

Anyway, to get back to the point, here is the RFUW's full, unedited, explanation for its decisions on venues for the World Cup. Make of them what you will.

I have read your latest blog regarding the women’s rugby world cup with interest.
England is delighted and honoured to be hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC) and we are working very hard and investing much time, money and resources into making this tournament the best women’s world cup ever. And we hope by doing that, the profile and the interest levels in women’s rugby will grow, and as a women’s rugby supporter yourself, I am sure you’ll want to see the same. As a result I thought it was important to point out some inaccuracies in the piece which could damage that profile and risk that growth.
Firstly to note, the pool games capacity at Surrey Sports Park is not 650 but 2,500 and we may look to increase that further depending on sales for the early rounds.
The semi and finals capacity is 14200 at the Stoop. The reason we have chosen the Stoop over say Twickenham is because, after consulting with players, organisers and the broadcasters, we believe a sold out final will create a much better atmosphere than playing in a less than half empty 80,000 capacity stadium. Yes, we probably could sell more tickets than 14,200, especially if England are in the final (given the last England vs New Zealand game at Twickenham was watched by over 12500 -   a record attendance for Women’s rugby in England), but this decision shows it is not about making money but giving the players and the fans a great experience. Having been to past WRWC final held in massive stadiums I know from personal experience the atmosphere of the occasion has been lost. Also from a media point of view a half empty stadium doesn't look good, and doesn't promote the game well either when it goes out live on TV.
On which note that is another major success for the tournament. We have Sky on board broadcasting live a minimum of seven games. This has never happened before in a women’s world cup. In addition in the coming weeks we will be announcing a number of major sponsors, household names, showing that we have the support in place to make this a truly successful event and one which will have a positive and lasting impact on the game of women’s rugby.
Also your description of the venue for the Pool Games is not accurate. The matches will not be played at a university park playing field. Yes, Surrey Sports Park is owned by the University of Surrey but Surrey Sports park is a multi million pound facility, offering a venue that hosts some of the best facilities in the world. It is already attracting international and national events. In addition to the WRWC, Harlequins have chosen it as their training base, and it is a possible training facility for the Olympics and Paralympics games in 2012.
Additionally the pitches, which are brand new for this tournament (because it is a new facility) are of world class standard so hardly the standard of pitch which student teams  play on. Yes, there will be temporary stands but this is normal for events like this as they do not take place all year round, and no they won't be filled with VIPS. The overall aim of this world cup is to promote women's rugby and grow
the game, and the more people that can get into these games the better as far as we are concerned which to come back to my original point is a view I know you share.
I hope this clarifies some things for you, and please let me know if you have any other questions or are working on further pieces and would like our input.

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