GLOUCESTER could become a hub for rugby fans of all nations when the world cup is staged in 2015.
As well as welcoming Scottish, Tongan, Argentinian, and most likely Japanese and American fans to the city, tourism chiefs are working to capitalise on Irish fans’ fondness for Gloucester.
Irish fans and others whose teams aren’t playing in the rugby-mad city are being targeted by marketing experts who say Gloucester can offer cheaper accommodation and a central location for the tournament.
Ireland will be playing at the Olympic stadium and Wembley in London, and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and those who have not booked package tours will be offered a chance to consider Gloucester as an alternative.
Marketing Gloucester promises that with train journeys of between one and two hours to Ireland’s Rugby World Cup venues, a city like Gloucester with its knowledgeable fans and four pool matches is the perfect place to stop by.
Gloucester has proved a hit with Munster fans for the province’s Heineken Cup clashes with the Cherry and Whites, and many supporters have struck up a good rapport.
“When Munster came last month, it was a fantastic weekend,” said Jason Smith, boss of Marketing Gloucester.
“What we are trying to do is get the Irish fans to use Gloucester as a base.
“We know they love coming to Gloucester - and it’s going to be cheaper for them than London or Cardiff.”
Gloucester is gearing up to welcome the tournament to the city for the first time since 1991.
Then, only one match was staged, between the New Zealand All Blacks and the USA Eagles, but as an amateur sport the fixture attracted mainly interested local fans.
This time around will be different - a ‘fanzone’ will be created at Gloucester Docks where hundreds of families will be able to watch a giant TV and Kingsholm Road is likely to be closed for on-street entertainment.
The addition of Irish fans, and others, to the mix would be welcomed by pubs including Cafe Rene, which proved a hit with Munster fans last month.
“The Irish fans like to travel and they take great pride in being good tourists,” said Cafe Rene manager Chris Atine. “They never cause any trouble - quite the opposite - and they will be in a city which knows its rugby and knows them.”
Kingsholm Supporters Mutual chairman Bob Rumble said all fans are welcome to the city.
“It seems like an excellent idea,” he said. “Anything that gets more supporters and visitors in to Gloucester for the Rugby World Cup 2015 has to be applauded.”
Steve O’Connor, spokesman for the Gloucester Irish Community Centre said: “It sounds like an excellent idea. If the city was looking to attract Irish rugby fans for the World Cup, that’s something I think we’d want to get involved in.
“We get quite a lot of Irish fans come along to the community centre when the clubs are playing here in the Heineken Cup.”
Mr O’Connor added that the community centre in Horton Road was not just for Irish people, or those of Irish descent.
He added: “We’re here for anyone in the entire community.”