Rugby World Cup snub of Leicester Tigers is 'nonsensical'
Sports fans are demanding that the organisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup rethink their decision to snub Leicester Tigers' famous Welford Road ground as a tournament venue.
More than 500 Tigers fans have set up a Facebook page calling for Welford Road to be included in rugby's premier event, and Leicestershire MPs have been quick to back the campaign.
Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth has written to Sport Minister Hugh Robertson, and to the tournament organisers, England Rugby 2015, calling for the decision to be reconsidered.
He said: "Welford Road is the largest club ground in the country and Tigers is the most successful professional rugby club in England. The decision not to include Welford Road is nonsensical."
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The row erupted yesterday after the tournament organisers announced a list of 17 potential venues for World Cup matches which did not include Welford Road, even though it is England's largest club rugby stadium with a capacity of 24,000.
The majority of the venues are football grounds, including Leicester City's King Power Stadium. Only one is a club rugby ground – Gloucester's Kingsholm stadium, which holds 16,000.
The shortlist will be cut to either 10 or 12 venues next year.
The organisers said that the main reason Welford Road was not selected was because the pitch is not big enough. It is four metres shorter than the smallest criteria of 95 metres.
John Griffiths, of the Leicester Tigers Away Supporters' Club, said: "This is a slap in the face for the spirit of rugby. The atmosphere at a full Welford Road is amazing, much better than a two-thirds-full football ground."
Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier said: "It is unthinkable that Welford Road would be unsuitable to host a match between the likes of Argentina and Japan, for example.
"Welford Road is the capital of Midlands and international club rugby.
"This is not to decry the excellent facilities at the King Power Stadium. But that is a venue dedicated to a sport using a different shaped ball."
Leicestershire MPs David Tredinnick, Liz Kendall and Andrew Bridgen also called for a rethink.
In yesterday's Mercury, Tigers chairman Peter Tom said the club was "hugely disappointed" with the decision and pointed out that Welford Road had hosted many major occasions over the years, including visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in recent seasons.
Fans have taken to social media to express their outrage.
Paul Wright posted on the Leicester Tigers Ultras Facebook page: "Another slap in the face from the powers-that-be. Why we bother contributing so much to the national cause is beyond me."
On Twitter, Warren Manger said: "Feel sorry for LeicesterTigers that Welford Road not shortlisted."
Matt Elliott said: "It is a shocking decision that Welford Road hasn't been chosen for the RWC. But at least Leicester is represented."