Leicester Tigers told 'your pitch is too small' after 2015 Rugby World Cup snub
Leicester Tigers are "surprised and disappointed" after Welford Road was left off a list of venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
While Leicester City's King Power Stadium has been included, the biggest club rugby ground in England has been axed from the list.
The tournament organisers yesterday announced the list of 17 potential match venues for hosting the World Cup's 48 matches – and the majority of venues are large football grounds. The main reason given for the exclusion of Welford Road is that the pitch is not big enough.
The King Power Stadium also applied to host games and has made the shortlist, which will be cut to 10-12 next year.
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The 32,000-seater venue has been re-christened as the 'Leicester City Stadium' for sponsorship reasons for the tournament.
Tigers chairman Peter Tom said the club is "hugely disappointed" with the decision.
"When the International Rugby Board awarded the Rugby World Cup to the country that gave this sport to the world we saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the international game and also the professional club game here.
"Leicester Tigers wanted to be part of that.
"That the organisers do not think this an appropriate venue for its fixtures is disappointing and confusing, both for the professional club game in this country and for its supporters.
"Welford Road has hosted many, many major occasions over the years, including visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in recent seasons.
"It is home to the best-supported and most successful club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status."
Tom added; "The club invested £15million in building the new Caterpillar Stand in 2009 to take Welford Road's capacity up to 24,000.
"A programme of development will continue to improve facilities and the matchday experience for players, supporters and corporate guests.
"It is disappointing that this investment is not rewarded with World Cup status, while many other venues on the proposed list do not show that level of commitment to our sport."
The chief operating officer of ER 2015, the organisers, Ross Young said there are a number of minimum criteria when choosing potential venues, including standards of media and hospitality facilities, but one of them is consistency of pitch size.
The smallest criteria is 95x68m yet Welford Road's pitch is only 91m long.
"Teams want to play on the same size of pitches in all of their pool games," he said.
"But Leicester is a headlight of rugby and so there is still a good chance that World Cup rugby will be coming to the city."
The King Power Stadium will now be central to Leicester's bid, backed by the city council, which will now be subject to further evaluation.
The venue list will then be whittled down to 10-12 venues next spring.
Leicester City's chief executive officer Susan Whelan said the club is "honoured" to have been selected as a possible host.She said: "We look forward to working with our partners from the Leicester City Council and Leicester Tigers to delivering a bid the city can be proud of and, hopefully, to securing Leicester's place as an official host venue of Rugby World Cup 2015.
"Together with the city's proud sporting heritage and the passion of its people, it should combine to make Leicester's bid an extremely strong one."