Tigers fuming over World Cup snub
Leicester chairman Peter Tom has accused World Cup officials of betraying the Tigers' contribution to English rugby for cold, hard cash after Welford Road was axed as a potential tournament venue.
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Gloucester's Kingsholm is the only Aviva Premiership rugby ground on a list of 17 stadia under consideration for the 2015 World Cup, 12 of which belong to Premier League or Football League clubs.
The home grounds of Manchester United, Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Southampton have all been included by England Rugby 2015 after expressing an interest in staging World Cup matches.
ER2015 have also named the new Brighton stadium, Bristol City's Ashton Gate, Pride Park in Derby, Coventry's Ricoh Arena, Leeds United's ground Elland Road and Stadium:mk on the long list.
The World Cup organising company have to sell 2.9million tickets in order to cover the £80million guarantee owed to the International Rugby Board.
That equates to average gates of 60,000 per match, which is why football grounds were included along with Twickenham, Wembley, the Olympic Stadium and the Millennium Stadium.
Leicester is still represented by the city's 32,000-capacity football stadium after Welford Road failed an evaluation of its pitch size and off-field facilities.
But Tom was furious, arguing his club's investment in English rugby had been disregarded in favour of football clubs who had given nothing to the sport.
"We are hugely disappointed," Tom said.
"Welford Road is home to the best-supported and most successful club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status.
"Yet it will not be at the table. That the organisers of RWC2015 do not think this an appropriate venue for its fixtures is disappointing and confusing both for the professional club game in this country and for its supporters.
"Leicester Tigers has always been a forward-thinking and progressive club, and has played an important role in the development and promotion of the game in this country.
"Who can forget that both head coach (Sir Clive Woodward) and captain (Martin Johnson) of England's World Cup-winning team in 2003, and several other members of the squad and backroom staff, spent major parts of their own careers in Leicester colours?
"The current England squad also contains a sizeable number of Leicester players, many of whom have been introduced to the sport as fans at Welford Road and have come through the club's academy structure to first-team and then international honours.
"It is that kind of heritage and dedication to the development of the game that makes the name of Leicester Tigers and Welford Road stadium known throughout the rugby-playing world.
"Leicester Tigers invested £15million in building the new Caterpillar Stand in 2009 to take Welford Road's capacity up to 24,000.
"A programme of development will continue to improve facilities and the matchday experience for players, supporters and corporate guests.
"It is disappointing that this investment is not rewarded with World Cup status while many other venues on the proposed list do not show that level of commitment to our sport."
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie, who is on the board of ER2015, insisted the decision was not a snub to Leicester's contribution to the sport.
But Ritchie did concede the romance of World Cup matches being played at Welford Road did not stack up against the reality of facilities and ticket sales.
"It is not a question of denying their contribution, both historically and in terms of what they do for the game now," Ritchie said.
"In this respect, you have to look at the factors the group auditing it had to look at and how it fitted against those factors."
The 17-venue list was compiled following an evaluation process undertaken by ER2015 in collaboration with Rugby World Cup Ltd, host broadcaster ITV and all commercial stakeholders.
Welford Road's off-field facilities failed to measure up to standards set out by RWC Ltd, as did the pitch.
"Club rugby is completely different to international rugby," explained Ross Young, ER2015 chief operating officer.
"England don't stage Six Nations matches at club grounds. We are talking about hosting a major international rugby event.
"We can't fulfil the financial commitments by staging games at club rugby grounds - we would have to charge tens of thousands of pounds per ticket!
"We are working towards a criteria of having just two pitch sizes - 100-metre x 70-metre, like Twickenham, and 95m x 68m.
"If you try to lay that on Welford Road, there is no room."
Anfield's pitch was also too small while Arsenal withdrew their interest and have been replaced as a third London option by the Olympic Stadium.
ER2015 are in talks with the Olympic Park Legacy Company over the future use of the stadium, which has obvious attractions following the success of London 2012.
The final selection of 10-12 venues will be confirmed early in the new year, once the tournament match schedule has been formulated. The pool draw is being held on December 3 in London.
Full list of potential venues:
Villa Park, Birmingham. Capacity: 42,788
Brighton Community Stadium (Amex Stadium), Brighton. Capacity: 22,500
Ashton Gate, Bristol. Capacity: 21,497
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Capacity: 72,500
Coventry Stadium (Ricoh Arena), Coventry. Capacity: 32,609
Pride Park, Derby. Capacity: 33,597
Kingsholm, Gloucester. Capacity: 16,500
Elland Road, Leeds. Capacity: 39,460
Leicester City Stadium (King Power Stadium), Leicester. Capacity: 32,262
Olympic Stadium, London. Capacity: 80,000
Twickenham, London. Capacity: 82,000
Wembley, London. Capacity: 90,000
Old Trafford, Manchester. Capacity: 75,811
Stadium:mk, Milton Keynes. Capacity: 32,000
St James' Park, Newcastle. Capacity: 52,387
St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Capacity: 32,689
Stadium of Light, Sunderland. Capacity: 49,000