"The winner is ... Australia": Olympic guru McGeoch pushing 2021 Women's World Cup bid

Womens Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

The mastermind behind the Sydney Olympic bid, Rod McGeoch, is confident Australia’s bid for the 2021 Womens Rugby World Cup is the best in the tournament’s history and he believes Australia is the most bankable option for the 2027 Men’s Rugby World Cup as well.

McGeoch has huge global standing as a major event bid guru, having steered the Sydney bid team to an unforgettable win in 1993 and advising the Athens and London Olympic bid teams as well.

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the famous proclamation from then-IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch - “The winner is Sydney” - and McGeoch attended a special reunion function on Monday evening.

That victory changed the course of McGeoch’s career, and the former lawyer then became one of the world's most sought-after consultants on bidding for major events.

For the past few months McGeoch has been putting his experience and knowledge behind Rugby Australia’s bid for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, which goes to a World Rugby council vote in November.

McGeoch is a director of Destination NSW and his role as an adviser to Rugby Australia on the 2021 World Cup bid, and their bid plans for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, came after he was asked to head up the NSW Government’s recently-announced drive to host 10 World Cups in the next 10 years.

Along with the Rugby World Cups, NSW are aiming to host events such as ICC T20 World Cups, the FIFA Womens World Cup and the netball World Cup in the next decade.

“The sports themselves are really going to do the bid …. I am just there in the background to help, to hone the bid up, to emphasise what I think are the key messages. Because in events like this it is quite competitive,” McGeoch told RUGBY.com.au.

“The government is behind this initiative and asked me to do it, and this government is a proven performer. This state has the seal of approval, because of the Olympic Games and other international events.

“There is never a question mark can you do it?

“In this day and age, the commitment of government has to be absolute, and security is absolutely vital for the safety of spectators and players, your transport solutions have got to be perfect and on you go down through those infrastructure issues.

“Our government here has always delivered on its promises.

“Most governments have got to provide some guarantees on big international events, well this is an A-rated financial institution, this government.

“So we would be putting forward those sort of strengths (to World Rugby).

“Somebody else might be saying it is not your turn yet or it should be in another part of the globe. My job is meet all those arguments.”

McGeoch is a proven winner in the Olympic sphere but he is no stranger to Rugby World Cup bid success, either, having played a central role in New Zealand’s winning the hosting duties for the 2011 tournament.

Though a passionate Wallabies fan, McGeoch toured the world lobbying in New Zealand colours and even wore a Kiwi tie when addressing the ARU board for support.

This time around he’s happily flying the Australian flag and has this week helped sell NSW and Australia to visiting leading World Rugby officials, who are in Sydney for perfectly-timed meetings.

The vote to determine the host of the 2021 Womens World Cup - which is being contested by Australia and New Zealand - is to be held in November. 

The Australian bid would see the Women's Rugby World Cup held in Newcastle and the Hunter region. 

The Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove hosted a barbecue at Admiralty House on Monday night and McGeoch helped arrange for World Rugby's executive commitee to be ferried across the harbour at dusk in a luxury super yacht, on loan from businessman Anthony Bell.

“The decision in November of this year and by coincidence we have World Rugby here, and so we have really tried to show what we can do,” McGeoch said.

“The Governor-General gave a great barbecue, we took them around the harbour, the usual thing we do to show them the city and let them feel what an international spectator support group would have if they came to Sydney. It’s all part of it and we do it all the time.

“At the moment we won’t actually have a major football facility in Sydney available, because we are going through some knockdowns and renovations.

“So we are offering a first-class stadium in Newcastle and Maitland and we are giving the teams really wonderful accomodation in amongst the vineyards, surrounded by golf courses and swimming pools and that sort of thing. 

“And we don’t think our opponents would do quite as much as that, and only time will tell whether we have enough.

“At the end of the day, I think the experience here, particularly the experience of the wider Hunter Valley, around that Newcastle Stadium, is going to be pretty special.

“What we are offering is far more than has ever been done before in hosting a Womens Rugby World Cup.”

Australia has signalled its intention to bid for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, along with Argentina. It’s expected a European nation or two will also bid.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont recently said the game’s governing body would contemplate taking the World Cup to “emerging countries”, which is good news for Argentina.

But given the World Cup is the only source of revenue for World Rugby, and a very large source at that, McGeoch said the key decision makers would be extremely mindful of having a reliable and proven host nation, who can provide a successful and controversy-free World Cup. Which favours Australia.

“No doubt about it, we have the capacity (to host the 2027 World Cup),” McGeoch said.

“I think it is a matter of whether Argentina is capable of doing it.

"I go to Argentina a lot, I am on a board of a company that is involved there. It is a country that is struggling a little economically but it is a great country, and a great rugby country with good venues.

“I think there the question will be will the government be able to convince, really the world, that it can afford it and it can deliver on its promises.

“The bigger the infrastructure challenge is to get ready, the greater the strain on your budget and the likelihood there will be political opposition because people think it should be spent on something else, that’s the problem that you get.

“The Olympic movement in the last two or three years has had some troubles in that area. Hamburg, Budapest, Rome all withdrew a bid because of the reputation (of being a host) post-Rio, and saying, I am not sure we want to do this.

“So Paris and Los Angeles have, in effect, been given the Games of 24 and 28. So you can take on something that is beyond you.

“The owners of these events, the IOC or World Rugby, they’re awake now to the fact that you have to have the capacity to deliver. 

“You can’t afford to have an event that falls to pieces or the broadcast isn’t any good or its not run on time and there is traffic congestion.

“The last thing you want is social media saying this is a disaster when you are trying to get someone to bid next time.”

McGeoch said he’d enjoyed celebrating the “life-changing” Sydney Olympic bid win this week, and said he and the team were grateful for the opportunity to work on it.

But, with the World Cup rugby bids on the boil in the same week, it was also a timely reminder for McGeoch that the bid process is a tough and stressful arena.

“There is nothing you can’t lose,” he said. 

“We never gave a guarantee during the Olympic bid, but what we did say is that we would be as professional as we could be, and I’d like to think that’s our benchmark this time too.”