VIDEO: Thomond Park hosts first European Sport Summit

AN Irish bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would be “world class and compelling” according to the man behind New Zealand’s staging of the event.

Martin Snedden, who was CEO of the New Zealand 2011 Rugby World Cup, spoke in glowing terms of Ireland’s potential to host the tournament at the first ever European Sport Tourism Summit, held in Thomond Park last week.

“The IRB will know that Ireland represents a smaller risk for them than some other places that might be interested because of geographical location, good stadia, and a country that rugby, sport, hospitality and tourism all resonate,” Mr Snedden told the Limerick Leader, standing on the hallowed pitch, which he was making his first visit to.

“The risk is much less than it was around giving it to New Zealand.”

The conference, attended by some 240 delegates - many from around the world - was the brainchild of Keith Wood and his company W2 Consulting who said it was about being “a catalyst for change”.

“The overall idea is to try and put sport tourism - as opposed to tourism and sport matches, which are held separately - to try and integrate them a little bit more, to bring some of the Government agencies together with some of the producers of sport,” he said.

The former Munster, Irish and Lions star said Limerick was the “ideal place” to host the high profile event.

“From the people who have turned up, I am very happy - we took a fair punt to try and get this to work and we wanted to do it in Limerick,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Keith announced that Limerick would be home to a sport innovation hub, that he has already approached local government about.

“There is a lot of talk around innovation, and what it is that you can do - but we want to do it in relation to sports companies,” he explained. “There is a possibility to have sports research and development, mentoring schemes, so the first part of that was announced today.”

Thomond Park stadium boss John Cantwell was one of the speakers and stressed the need for closer collaboration between the stadium and local authorities.

“I am talking about the need for Limerick and Thomond Park to join themselves up together and work as a team, in order to secure business and start actually putting our best foot forward, rather than approaching it in a splintered way,” he said.

“I think if we approach the future in similar fashion, we can secure high profile events.”

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