NZ stadium row threatens World Cup final move

Rugby union officials in New Zealand won’t admit it but they must be starting to fear that they could be forced to share the hosting of the 2011 World Cup with Australia if Auckland cannot deliver a suitable venue on time.


A proposal to develop a new 60,000-seat football stadium in Auckland is meeting stiff resistance from civic leaders, prompting New Zealand’s sports minister Trevor Mallard to say a decision on whether to support the project that is going to cost hundreds of millions has to be made in the next fortnight.


Mr Mallard has threatened to shift the finals to Christchurch if Auckland is unable to reach agreement on the project.


Auckland Rugby Union chairman Ken Baguley says there is no way the game’s international controlling body would accept that and raised the contentious proposal of transferring the major round matches to stadiums in Australia.


The 2003 Rugby World cup was originally scheduled to be held in NZ and Australia and when NZ could not get their stadiums in order they lost the right to host the tournament.


With the squabble of the Auckland stadium becoming bigger and bigger it is starting to look more and more possible that Australia will host the 2011 Rugby World Cup if Auckland does not deliver a suitable venue on time.


The Sunday Star-Times reported on the weekend that Auckland Rugby Union chairman Ken Baguley dismissed Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard’s threats to shift the tournament to Christchurch’s Jade Stadium as “rubbish”.


Baguley spoke to Sunday Star-Times Greg Ford in New Zealand and Baguley said that Australia would be the victor if Auckland could not come up with a viable plan in time.


Mallard has unveiled plans to build a $500 million national stadium in Auckland’s port although a revamp of Eden Park underpinned New Zealand’s bid to host the tournament a year ago.


Many, including Baguley, disagree, saying the project can’t be delivered on time and budget.


Mallard said Christchurch’s Jade Stadium would be pressed into service if so.


“But that’s rubbish -there’s no way Christchurch could host a final,” said Baguley.


“There are a number of logistical reasons why but the main one is the International Rugby Board who, don’t forget, own the tournament, simply would not allow it.


“Jade Stadium doesn’t have enough corporate boxes for a start, which is where a lot of the IRB’s tournament revenue comes from.


“Eden Park has about 100, which is one of the reasons why they agreed the cup final should be held in Auckland.


“They will take it off us and play it in Australia if Auckland can’t get its act together.”


Dublin-based IRB chief executive Mike Miller told Sunday Star-Times it was confident New Zealand would deliver on its promise to build a 60,000-seat stadium.


“We’re relaxed about the Government looking at a waterfront option,” he said.


“If they think they can provide a better venue than Eden Park, which would be perfectly adequate, then we’re happy they do so.”


But Miller stressed it had to be in Auckland, New Zealand’s financial hub. Even so, Mallard was sticking to his story yesterday.


“(Jade) is a clear third choice to the waterfront and Eden Park,” he said. But (Baguley) is wrong. What is important to the IRB is they have a 60,000-seat stadium, good television and the teams involved and their top level sponsors have high quality accommodation. There is no doubt Christchurch can accommodate that.”


Mallard is expected to announce a decision on whether the proposed national stadium or Eden Park hosts the match in about a fortnight.

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