Rugby Africa Cup 2022 in France: the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Africa calls on the president of Rugby Africa Khaled Babbou

LAGOS, Nigeria, March 4, 2022/APO Group/ — The following is a statement from AIPS Africa President and AIPS Vice President, Mitchell Obi:

“I think the decision taken by the chairman of Rugby Africa to host the Rugby World Cup African qualifiers in provincial France, rather than keeping them on the African continent, is completely wrong and sends a very worrying message. to all Africans, especially the young population and the rising rugby community on the continent.

People will rightly wonder why the continent’s most prestigious rugby tournament is being moved and played in Europe, when there are plenty of alternative venues in Africa fully equipped to host it.

Playing the tournament in France not only deprives African audiences of watching world-class rugby on their doorstep, but also robs local economies of much-needed revenue from a high-profile event that would have boosted the tourism and hospitality industries. , and increased international exposure. and investment.

Besides, it is not even “France” as a whole that hosts this vital African tournament. No, the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 will be played in the “South Region”, a region of France which ranks seventh in terms of population and is furthest from the capital, Paris.

The matches will be played in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, a city which is the beating heart of the French football scene, but which is hardly known for its love of rugby.

The signing ceremony announcing the awarding of the tournament to the “Southern Region” perfectly illustrated the insignificance of this tournament in the minds of sports leaders.

The French Minister of Sports was noticed by his absence. The president of the French Rugby Federation too. Instead, the main dignitaries present were the President of ‘Region

Sud’ and the mayor of Aix-en-Provence, a city of 143,000 football fans.

The Rugby Africa Cup has evolved from a celebration of an entire continent to an unexpected provincial event in a distant sphere devoid of the color and charm of a welcoming host.

At best, it’s depressing and condescending to African rugby players and fans. At worst, it’s an insult to the entire African continent. This reinforces the stereotypical portrayals that Africa still endures in Western media, so it is incredibly disappointing that the chairman of Rugby Africa – an African himself – has chosen to go this route.

The main reason he gave for his decision to host the competition in France rather than Africa seems to center on “media coverage” and visibility – the argument being that events held in Africa are somehow less accessible to the international public.

But one only has to look at some of the events that have already taken place in Africa to see that this argument is nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true. More international sporting events than ever are looking to Africa to host.

The main reason he gave for his decision to host the competition in France rather than Africa seems to be centered on “media coverage” and visibility.

Even the International Olympic Committee is coming to Africa, with the Youth Olympics to be held in Senegal in 2026 – the first time an Olympic competition has been held on the continent.

Over the next five years, Africa will host a multitude of prestigious international sporting events:

The 4th Summer Youth Olympic Games (Dakar, Senegal, 2026)

UCI Road Cycling World Championships (Rwanda, 2025)

Cricket World Cup (South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, 2027)

Francophonie Games (Kinshasa, DRC, 2023)

Africa Cup of Nations (Ivory Coast, 2023)

African Games (Accra, Ghana, 2023)

African Beach Games (Tunisia, 2023)

Netball World Cup (South Africa, 2026)

The 22nd CAA Senior African Championships in Athletics (Mauritius, 2022)

Mediterranean Games (Algeria, 2022)

Moreover, 3,650 athletes will participate this year in the Mediterranean Games in Algeria, while less than 200 will be on display at the Rugby Africa Cup. So it’s clearly not about scale, logistics or infrastructure.

Anyone who suggests that Africa is “not ready” or somehow unfit to host major global sporting events is reinforcing old colonial stereotypes of arrogance and entitlement. It’s a laughable thought. The world has moved on and knows the promise that Africa holds as the premier host of events.

As the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Africa, we are particularly concerned about the ability of African sports journalists to access and effectively cover the Rugby Africa Cup in such a remote location. We have urgently contacted Rugby Africa and World Rugby to ask what is being done to help them secure visas, flights and accommodation.

As the governing body and guardian of the game, World Rugby could and should have intervened in Rugby Africa’s decision to host an African tournament on another continent. By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be African, and sport is growing faster

here than elsewhere. The future of world rugby is Africa. And he needs protection – including from the president of Rugby Africa, if need be.

Unfortunately, the decision to award the hosting duties of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 to a provincial region of France was not and has never been taken with the best interests of African rugby at heart.

It is sincerely regrettable that the management of Rugby Africa has taken this unfortunate decision without deserving consultation with key stakeholders and partners who over the years have striven to add value to the growth of the game on the continent. . We recall here the absence of a vital scope and consultation with the main official sponsor of Rugby Africa (APO Group) whose founder and president, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard is obviously distraught with a decision that is entirely without foundation and without support. even for any death. fervently passionate.

I sincerely hope that these distinguished partners will not lose their appetite to improve and improve the game despite this bad patch.

Notably, the entire family of sports journalists across Africa and all those who care passionately about the health and growth of rugby on the continent insist on the need to bring and keep the Gold Cup where it rightfully belongs. title and finds its shine.

President Babbou must change gear without delay and forget his French provincial fantasies.