France the true winner of impactful Rugby World Cup 2023

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Rugby World Cup France 2023 delivered a significant social and economic impact for the host country while efforts to limit its environmental footprint were remarkable according to the official impact report produced by experts from EY on behalf of the French Ministry of Sport.

South Africa were not the only winners of Rugby World Cup 2023 hosted in France last year. The 10th edition of the men’s flagship event generated €1.8 billion of spend and a net input for the host country of €871 million according to an impact study commissioned by the French Ministry of Sport and produced by EY.

Assessing the three main type of impacts (economic, social, environmental) with comparable methodology to other major international sporting events, the comprehensive report gives an in-depth analysis of Rugby World Cup’s clear hosting benefits to boost the host nation’s economy, drive positive social change and reduce the global carbon footprint inherent to international competitions.

Report highlights include:

  • Rugby World Cup 2023 delivered a net input of €871 million for France’s economy and a total of €1.8 billion total spend
  • 425,000 international visitors (72 per cent from Europe) staying 10 days on average in France and spending €170 a day
  • Estimated public funding (€70m) for security, stadiums and fanzones covered by tax revenue generated by the event (€84m) making RWC 2023 an attractive investment for the French state
  • 39 per cent of the total tourist spend benefitted local communities outside of the host cities showcasing France 2023’s nationwide positive impact
  • 98 per cent of spectators satisfied with their stay in France with 82 per cent wishing to return, underscoring Rugby World Cup’s attractiveness in boosting tourism in the medium-term
  • Significant Rugby World Cup “effect” with a 12 per cent increase of registered players in France between February 2023 and February 2024
  • 160,000 direct beneficiaries from France 2023’s social programmes making it a best-in-class programme according to EY
  • RWC 2023 total carbon footprint tallies 830,000 tons of CO2 equivalent with 86 per cent coming from international visitors’ travel outside of France (scope 3 emissions)
  • Overall environmental impact mitigated using existing facilities and focusing strongly on public transport infrastructures and low-carbon mobility plans
  • France 2023’s carbon absorption programme to take a shared responsibility approach regarding key scope 3 emissions

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby World Cup 2023 was a fantastic showcase of our sport and values, and we are delighted to see that its positive impact went beyond the field of play with tremendous benefits for the host country, its population, businesses, society and the wider environment.

“The true value of hosting Rugby World Cup goes beyond the numbers, it is about the togetherness, solidarity, passion and the lifelong memories for the millions of fans. As we take our pinnacle competition to England, Australia and USA for the next Women’s and Men’s Rugby World Cups, we will strive to maintain and enhance this positive impact to benefit local communities and economy while carefully addressing the important topic of our environmental footprint.” 

Credit: Getty Images

France 2023 Chairman Jacques Rivoal said: “Our ambition since the beginning of our Rugby World Cup journey has been to leave a positive impact for France and rugby communities, while organising a responsible tournament that set new standards for the future. The impact report brings tangible proof that we have fulfilled our vision with great outcomes for all tournament stakeholders, including strong economic benefits for France and its cities, as well as a fantastic social and rugby legacy.

“Rugby World Cup 2023 was a record-breaker in many aspects with unprecedented attendance, viewership, and engagement and we are extremely proud to have organised this amazing celebration of togetherness while taking significant measures to limit and mitigate the tournament’s environmental footprint.”

French Minister for Sport, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Amélie Oudéa-Castera added: “Rugby World Cup 2023 has brought a great deal to our country, from the popular enthusiasm felt throughout the country to the promotion of sport and the rugby values, it showcased our heritage and our way of life, raising France’s profile in the world and demonstrating its organisational expertise. The EY study also establishes the very positive economic and social impact of the event. Finally, it shows the importance of the efforts made on the environmental front. More than ever, as the Paris 2024 Games approach, France is confirming its ambition to provide Europe and the world with a new model for these major international events, in a spirit of economic, social and environmental responsibility, which is the key to their long-term sustainability.”

A GOOD INVESTMENT BENEFITING ALL FRENCH TERRITORIES

True to its promise to engage a whole nation and be the Rugby World Cup of all French territories, France 2023’s economic impact reached beyond the 10 host cities and nine match venues, benefitting communities all over France. Forty per cent of the total tourism spend was recorded in cities and villages in the vicinity of the host cities (including a record 1.6M accommodation nights) showcasing how a tournament of this scale can boost local businesses the length and breadth of the host country.

The 425,000 international visitors who visited France to attend Rugby World Cup 2023 stayed 10 days on average in the country and spent an average €170 daily, compared to €80 for fans from France. Half of them visited a Rugby Village (fanzone) in addition to watching the match live in the stadium as they made the most of their Rugby World Cup experience.

The tournament’s successful delivery was also a major boost for France’s tourism with 98 per cent of spectators satisfied with their stay in France and 82 per cent wishing to return to France. International fans booked a total of 4.2 million overnight stays in the host country overall, representing €219m for the accommodation sector.

Credit: Getty Images

The report estimates that 5,200 jobs were created thanks to Rugby World Cup 2023 and France 2023’s strategy to prioritise French companies in its commercial structure and for its operational delivery. It meant 90 per cent of all suppliers and commercial partners were French organisations, and less than one per cent of France 2023’s operational spend benefited foreign companies.

Importantly, the report highlights that the cost incurred by local authorities (French government, cities and metropolises) was moderate with €70m spent compared with the €84m they earned in fiscal revenues with the VAT and tourism taxes.

Overall, the net input into the French economy is estimated at €871m, €690m of which being attributed to direct economic impact. This net economic impact excludes all French fans’ spend and French companies’ investments in the tournament. Once taken into account and integrated back in the methodology, Rugby Word Cup 2023’s total spend reaches €1.8bn.

A POWERFUL TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

For two months, the whole of France fell in love with rugby with France 2023 registering nine of the biggest 10 French TV audiences of the year and a cumulative 481m viewing hours across the tournament; with all matches broadcast on free-to-air channels to ringfence the tournament’s accessibility in the host country.  

The tournament mainly benefited fans within the host country. Of the one million people that have attended at least one of the 48 matches, 59 per cent were French.

Out of the 65 per cent of the French population who watched at least one match via broadcast, 40 per cent were doing so for the first time and half of the rugby new joiners were women. More than 25 per cent of spectators in venue were female, showing rugby’s rising popularity among women and girls.  Following their Rugby World Cup experience, 82 per cent of female spectators say it inspired them to play rugby.

The inspiring effect of Rugby World Cup was also positively experienced by the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR), who recorded a 12 per cent increase of registered players between February 2023 and February 2024, capitalising on the French team’s soaring popularity and international players’ visits in schools, hospitals and local rugby clubs over the tournament’s 51 days.

Rugby continues to carry values that resonate with the public with 84 per cent of all spectators surveyed having a good perception of the sport exceeding average perception of most sports. The ambitious CSR programmes implemented before and during the tournament, such as the endowment fund Rugby au Coeur which financially support rugby for development projects (210 projects, €1.5m granted) or the campaign ‘Rugby is my Pride’ raising awareness for the inclusion of LGBTQI+ communities within rugby, were both acclaimed and promoted on the tournament platforms.

Overall, 160,000 people have benefited from Rugby World Cup 2023’s CSR programmes with core strands of the plan handed to the host union to continue positive activities beyond the tournament.

REMARKABLE ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES TO LIMIT CARBON EMISSIONS

From the initial bid process in 2017, France 2023 maintained a strong environmental ambition and rightly so as 54 per cent of spectators expect organisers to reduce the tournament’s environmental impact.

Using the methodology provided by the French Ministry of Sports and data from the Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), the total event’s carbon footprint has been estimated at 830,000 tons of CO2 equivalent. By attracting rugby fans from around the world, Rugby World Cup 2023 is responsible for these indirect emissions (scope 3) which make up a majority of the tournament’s carbon footprint; 86 per cent of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions came from international visitors’ travel.

While significant, the footprint is estimated to be 3.4 times less than the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament (also organised in France within similar venues) and 4.4 times less than the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup. The total could have been higher without transformative efforts taken by organisers highlighted in the report.

The use of existing facilities and infrastructures for all tournament operations was a key decision that helped keep emissions to the lowest possible early in the planning phase. The tournament did not require any new build and all tournament venues from stadiums to team base camps were repurposed for the event, including the international broadcast and media centres at Roland Garros in Paris.

With transport responsible for 94 per cent of all emissions, France 2023 put a strong focus on low-carbon mobility plans for teams and fans within France. The report lauds the policies implemented, including the decision to make participating teams travel by train or bus for all journeys under five and a half hours (56 per cent of all teams’ mileage was done via train and bus – 80 per cent of all journeys), as well as the emphasis on railway and public transport for fans travelling within France and its host cities.

As such, 84 per cent of in-city fan travel was also undertaken via low-carbon mobility (public transport, walking or cycling) compared to an average of 39 per cent for the French population using this kind of mobility daily, showcasing how Rugby World Cup can positively influence behavioural changes.

New Zealand arriving at Gare de Lyon, Paris ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023’s opening game against France after a two-hour train journey from their team base in Lyon. Getty Images / World Rugby

World Rugby also implemented initiatives to decrease the carbon footprint of its own operations, starting with the host broadcast operation that creates the compelling spectacle enjoyed by viewers worldwide. From remote production, optimisation of truck movements, and the use of local crews, everything has been designed to minimise carbon emissions. The use of 100 per cent biofuel made from rapeseed oil to feed the secondary generators at match venues permitted a reduction of 64 per cent of emissions compared to traditional fuels.

For the remainder of the carbon emissions that could not be reduced further, France 2023 has launched a call for tender to find carbon sink projects to help them absorb part of the emissions the tournament is responsible for. Identifying only national and international projects labelled “Gold Standard” or “Verra Standard”, the programme has been collectively funded by a range of stakeholders including France 2023, World Rugby, the metropolis of Lyon and other sponsors. It is expected that 100,000 tons of CO2 equivalent will be absorbed through that programme.

Credit: World Rugby

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