BY JAMES WILKINSON
Christchurch has lost its seven Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) games that were due to be held in September and October after the city’s stadium operator Vbase determined the ground would not be ready in time for the tournament.
No footy will be played in Christchurch during the
upcoming Rugby World Cup in September
“We were informed by Stadium Christchurch operator Vbase that it could not guarantee that the extensive repairs required for both the stadium structures and the playing surface could be completed in time,” said International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset, who travelled to Christchurch for the announcement.
“That information means that Tournament partners have been left with no choice but to make the difficult decision to reallocate the seven matches due to be played in Christchurch.
“This has been a hard decision for all involved, given the place of Canterbury in New Zealand Rugby and the tremendous enthusiasm and support that the people of Christchurch have displayed for RWC 2011.
“The thoughts of the global Rugby family continue to be with the people of Christchurch and everyone affected as they focus on the city’s rebuilding process and repair of key public services and facilities,” he said.
In a letter to tournament organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RNZ 2011), Vbase Chief Executive Bryan Pearson said while consultant reports and advice to his company indicate “it may be possible to repair Stadium Christchurch within a timeframe that would enable Christchurch to host all seven RWC 2011 matches, (but) there would be no time contingency for the work required or any unforeseen events that may arise”.
Some of risks and events identified by Vbase included:
-Ongoing investigation required that might reveal the need for further work in relation to structures and playing surface;
-Complexity of a work programme that includes superficial and structural repairs and full replacement of the playing surface;
-Availability of resources (labour, material and equipment) and timeliness of securing consents; and
-Aftershocks that might impact on the work programme.
According to organisers, planning for reallocating the five pool games is at an “advanced stage”, while Eden Park in Auckland has been confirmed as the venue for the quarter finals on October 8 and 9.
RNZ 2011 CEO Martin Snedden said an announcement of the host venues for the pool games would be made by the end of March, after accommodation, transport and broadcast logistics were in place for the matches.
“Eden Park was the only logical alternative to stage two of the Tournament’s premier matches given the ground capacity and visitor accommodation demands associated with these quarter-final matches,” he said.
“We are working hard to ensure as many pool matches as reasonably possible remain in the South Island.
“A key consideration in all of this is to reschedule matches in a way that minimises the impact on other matches and therefore causes the least disruption to existing arrangements for teams and travelling.
“We appreciate this is a time of great uncertainty for fans which is why we are trying to resolve all issues as quickly as possible.
“We are enormously grateful for the support of all our partners in New Zealand during this difficult process and in particular the strenuous efforts by Vbase in attempting to meet our requirements,” Snedden said.
He also said that purchasers of Christchurch match tickets would be offered a full refund or the opportunity to secure tickets to the allocated matches – and there would be enough tickets to the rescheduled matches for those wanting to take up that option.
While Christchurch has lost its Rugby World Cup games, tourism leaders for the region are urging fans “not to bypass the region” while they are in New Zealand for the tournament.
“Sadly we won’t be hosting any Rugby World Cup games here but fans should still come and experience our passion for the game and spend time in the region which has produced such All Black greats as Robbie Deans, Wayne Smith, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw,” said Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism CEO, Tim Hunter.
“Canterbury is the home of rugby in New Zealand and for rugby devotees no trip to New Zealand can be complete without a visit to the region where the first rugby football union was established in 1879.
“Christchurch is still the gateway to the South Island and we’re confident many Rugby World Cup visitors will choose to spend time here despite the loss of the games, because as a visitor destination which stretches from the mountains to the sea we offer so much,” Hunter said.
As SpiceNews went live, it was being reported in the Australian media that the Wallabies would shift their World Cup base from Auckland to Christchurch. The story will be updated as news comes to hand.