Exeter's Sandy Park placed on standby for Rugby World Cup 2015 due to questions over Ashton Gate redevelopment
EXETER Chiefs’ Sandy Park has effectively been placed on standby in the event Ashton Gate is being redeveloped and cannot host any Rugby World Cup matches in 2015.
Bristol City recently announced plans to redevelop Ashton Gate, at a cost of £40 million, if they are unable to build a stadium at Ashton Vale.
With a decision due on the Ashton Vale plan this autumn, City could start the redevelopment of Ashton Gate as early as next summer if their plans for a new stadium are rejected.
And England Rugby 2015, the organising committee for the World Cup, has added Sandy Park to the “long list” of potential venues in the event Ashton Gate is in no state to host any matches.
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In a statement, England Rugby 2015 said: “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.”
Bristol City, who by 2015 are likely to have been joined at their home by Bristol Rugby, remain eager to host World Cup matches – but acknowledge their redevelopment plans could prove the decisive factor in whether or not they are selected as a final venue.
A spokesman said: “Together with Bristol City Council, we remain excited at the prospect of World Cup rugby coming to Ashton Gate in 2015. Bristol would provide a fantastic backdrop to the competition.
“We appreciate, however, that our plans to redevelop Ashton Gate will be a factor in England 2015’s final selection of host venues.
“We understand this is the reason why the organisers have opted to add Sandy Park to the long list of potential venues at this time.”
Debbie Jevans, the chief executive of England Rugby 2015, said: “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.”