Rugby World Cup
Christchurch loses World Cup games
March 16, 2011
A poster promoting the Rugby World Cup stands in front of Christchurch's Cathedral after the earthquake struck © Getty Images
Christchurch has been officially stripped of its Rugby World Cup matches because of earthquake damage to the city's infrastructure, including AMI Stadium.
Seven matches will be relocated to other New Zealand cities, including two quarter-finals now to be played in Auckland. The other venues, for pool matches, have yet to been confirmed.
The announcement came on Wednesday after speculation as to whether the city was fit to host not just the matches but the accommodation and transport needs of teams, staff and thousands of fans.
There was hope the South Island city, devastated by the February 22 quake, would still be able to host part of the tournament as that would have given the region a much-needed morale boost but the logistical difficulties proved too difficult to overcome. Rather, an increased focus on getting AMI Stadium ready to host sell-out crowds and World Cup matches may have taken away from more important rebuilding projects around the city.
Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said: "It is with sincere regret that I have to announce that the stakeholders have agreed that all the 2011 Rugby World Cup games scheduled to be played through Christchurch are to be moved."
Auckland's Eden Park, which was already set to play a central role in the tournament, will get the two quarter-finals AMI Stadium was set to host due its size and Auckland's ability to cope with the increased patronage. Teams such as Australia, who were set to base themselves in Christchurch for at least part of the tournament, will likely turn to Auckland instead.
"Eden Park was the only logical alternative to stage two of the tournament's premier matches given the ground capacity and visitor accommodation demands associated with these quarter-final matches," Rugby New Zealand chief Martin Snedden said. "We are working hard to ensure as many pool matches as reasonably possible remain in the South Island."
Present at the announcement were IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, IRB chief executive Mike Miller, NZ Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew, RWC 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden and Brian Pearson, chief executive of AMI Stadium owner Vbase.
Lapasset said organisers were left with "no choice but to make the difficult decision" to relocate the matches as it could not even be guaranteed the stadium would be fully ready before the September-October tournament.
"Yesterday we were informed by Stadium Christchurch operator VBase that it could not guarantee that the extensive repairs required could be completed in time," he said.
"That information, coupled with a thorough review of every aspect of hosting RWC 2011 in the city, means that tournament partners have been left with no choice but to make the difficult decision to reallocate the seven matches due to be played in Christchurch."
World Cup organisers have insisted from the outset that all matches will be played in New Zealand. Ticket-holders for all Christchurch matches will be offered the option of a refund or the opportunity to secure tickets to the reallocated matches.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.