World Cup Rugby at Arsenal? Wenger puts the boot in

Sep 18, 2012
Gavin Mortimer

Arsenal manager says there’s no way Emirates stadium can be used to hold rugby matches in 2015

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THE OLYMPICS may be over but England is already turning its attention to the next major sporting spectacle to be held on these shores. The Rugby World Cup, the third biggest global sports after the Summer Olympics and Football World Cup, will be held in England in 2015 and tournament organisers want to stage some of the matches in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford and at some the Premier League’s top club venues.

But the authorities are meeting resistance - not least from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.  

Top of the organisers’ hit list is the 80,000-capacity Olympic stadium. "You would be mad not to include it as part of your thinking," said Ross Young, chief operating officer of England's organising committee.
The stadium is now standing idle in east London and Rugby World Cup [RWC] organisers want to include it in the list of 10 to 12 venues that they have to have finalised by early 2013.

Much will depend on whether the Olympic stadium is leased out in the intervening period. As the BBC reports, four bids are under consideration including one from West Ham United.

RWC organisers hope that several football stadiums will host matches, including Wembley, Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates.

"To get as near as we can to the three million ticket sales, we have to engage with football clubs because they are the only ones who are going to give us the capacity to drive those numbers," Young explained to the BBC. Only by selling 3m tickets will organisers reach their target of raising £100m in revenue.

However, one club reportedly not interested in doing rugby a favour is Arsenal. The Daily Mail claims manager Arsene Wenger “can’t see any point” in letting his hallowed turf be cut by 30 pairs of size 12 boots.

The Emirates stadium is ideally placed to stage matches, being just a stone’s throw from the mainline railway stations at King’s Cross and St Pancras, but apparently Wenger is “adamant” that Arsenal will have no part to play in the 2015 World Cup.

Not only is the Frenchman concerned about the effect on the pitch but he doesn’t want to risk causing disruption to Arsenal’s fixture list by the staging of matches at the Emirates.
In contrast, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has no such concerns because he trusts the advice of groundsman Keith Kent, formerly responsible for the Old Trafford pitch and now in charge of the turf at Twickenham, the traditional venue for England rugby matches.

The Mail says Liverpool City Council would love to see some Rugby World Cup matches staged at Anfield because of the revenue it would bring to the city, but the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have expressed reservations.

Perhaps, as Americans, they’re frightened of seeing their country hammered by a small Polynesian island like Tonga.

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