By Mark Stevens
England Rugby 2015, Organising Committee for Rugby World Cup 2015, have today confirmed that Sandy Park, home of Premiership Rugby side Exeter Chiefs, has been added to the long list of match venues for Rugby World Cup 2015.
The Devon venue has been added to the long list of venues identified as potential hosting sites by competition organisers, who are keen to ensure the four-yearly tournament utilises venues all over the country. The addition of Sandy Park follows the recent announcement by Bristol City Football Club of a proposed redevelopment of Ashton Gate. After discussion with the club, it was agreed that the redevelopment timetable will prove challenging for the staging of matches in autumn 2015. In order to ensure the tournament utilises venues all over the country, an additional stadium in the South West of England has been identified.
Sandy Park, which was built in 2006 at a cost of £15 million, meets all of the Rugby World Cup 2015 minimum standards criteria, including playing facilities, pitch size, commercial considerations and the support of the local authority. In addition, the stadium will also have an increased capacity by 2015.
Welcoming today’s announcement, Exeter Rugby Club Chairman and Chief Executive, Tony Rowe OBE, said: “We are delighted to have been confirmed as one of the possible match venues on the long list for Rugby World Cup 2015. We see this as not only a fantastic opportunity to showcase our great club to the world’s rugby fraternity, but also it provides a wonderful opportunity to bring alive not only the city of Exeter, but also our region which we know offers a significant input into the heartbeat of English rugby.
“This announcement is exciting news not just for rugby followers locally, but for everyone living here within the region. We have been working incredibly closely with Exeter City Council in submitting a bid we hope will bring so much to so many people. Our hope now is that we will be among the venues that will be selected for what I know will be a superb Rugby World Cup here in England in 2015.”
Debbie Jevans, England Rugby 2015 Chief Executive, added: “We are very pleased to add Sandy Park to the long list of potential match venues for Rugby World Cup 2015. We want to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2015 is a truly national event, and Sandy Park, located in the rugby heartland of the South West, gives us the option to take the tournament as far and wide as possible.
“I would like to thank Tony Rowe (pictured), Chairman and Chief Executive of Exeter Chiefs, and Exeter City Council for their support over the last few weeks as we went through the process of adding Sandy Park to the long list. We are finalising venues and the match schedule in conjunction with Rugby World Cup Limited and will publish the final list in the next few weeks.”
The news merely adds to the current buzz that exists in and around Sandy Park. Last October city councillors gave the green light to multi-million pound redevelopment plans drawn up by the ambitious Premiership club.
Over the next five years the Chiefs plan to expand the capacity of their ground from the current figure of 10,744 to 20,600 – and it is anticipated that the redevelopment will cost in the region of £24 million with three new grandstands and a 1,000-seater auditorium some of the additions to the current set-up.
Throughout that process – and also with the current Rugby World Cup 2015 submission – club officials have been working closely with Exeter City Council, whose leader Pete Edwards, has welcomed the news that the Rugby World Cup could be heading to Devon.
He said: “This is another great opportunity for Exeter to play its part at the heart of the South West in contributing to this exciting world event and to provide a great welcome to UK and international visitors. We are working particularly with Exeter Chiefs to try and secure the final selection of Exeter as one of the host cities for Rugby World Cup 2015 so that millions of people can get at least a glimpse of what the city and its surrounding area can offer.”