W Cup chief denies huge losses

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand, May 2 – Rugby World Cup chief Martin Snedden on Monday denied claims that the cost of hosting the tournament in New Zealand later this year had blown out to NZ$500 million ($400 million).

Snedden described as "disingenuous and misleading" a New Zealand Herald report that said staging the largest event ever held in the country would cost NZ$1.2 million but generate just NZ$700 million in direct economic returns.

He said the Herald figures "inexplicably" ignored almost NZ$270 million in revenue from ticket sales and and incorrectly included stadium construction costs and upgrades to port and airport infrastructure among the costs.

"There are no ‘white elephants’," Snedden said. "In most instances, RWC 2011 has simply acted as a catalyst to accelerate improvements that would have occurred anyway, albeit possibly a little bit later."

Snedden is chief executive of Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited, which was set up be the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and the New Zealand government to organise and deliver the September 9-October 23 tournament.

The organisation estimated late last year that the World Cup would record a NZ$39 million loss, two-thirds of which would be picked up by the government and one-third by the NZRU.

The figures have not been updated since tournament organisers shifted seven matches, including two semi-finals, from Christchurch following a devastating February 22 earthquake that killed more than 180 people.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand governor Alan Bollard predicted in January that the World Cup would provide a NZ$700 million boost to the economy, lifting growth by 0.33 percentage points.

Snedden said ticket sales so far showed the prediction was credible, with organisers expecting at least 85,000 international visitors during the tournament.

He said the global exposure New Zealand gained from hosting the event would also create a "feel good factor" in the economy, which critics derided as it was difficult to put a dollar figure on but which was still valuable.

"Then there is the potential for ongoing post-event economic benefits to New Zealand’s tourism and business sectors if leveraging initiatives during the tournament bear fruit down the track," he said.

"Studies on other major events, including the Sydney Olympics (in 2000) show these can be considerable."

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