Economic game-changer? How the Rugby World Cup could convert to success for Japan


Being a host country of a major sporting event can lead to an array of economic benefits – it’s a unique opportunity to increase international visitors, improve infrastructure and demonstrate economic and social prowess to the world. With the 2019 Rugby World Cup just around the corner, Senior Adviser Ian Howard takes a look at the forecasts for the economic impact the event will have on Japan.

Following an exciting summer of sport, from an epic five-hour Wimbledon final to the nail-biting Cricket World Cup finale and, further afield, the Lima 2019 Pan American Games and Africa Cup of Nations, attention is swiftly turning to the Rugby World Cup 2019, which kicks off on 20th September in Japan. This is the ninth Rugby World Cup, a tournament that has grown in size and stature over the years – and will be the first staged in Asia. All eyes are on the host country, and the economic benefits that this prestigious tournament will bring – but what are the experts predicting the total output to be?

The numbers

The 2019 World Cup is set to deliver record economic benefits to Japan – according to, it is on track to be the most widely viewed, most digitally engaged and most socially and economically impactful rugby event ever. In March 2018, an economic impact study by Ernst and Young (commissioned by the 2019 organising committee) stated that the tournament could be worth £1.5bn to Japan, with a jaw-dropping total output of £2.97bn.*

Rugby Chief Executive Officer Brett Gosper said: “We are confident of a very special, successful and impactful Rugby World Cup that will break new ground, on and off the field…Our excitement is shared with fans. We are anticipating more than 400,000 international visitors, which will be a record for a Rugby World Cup, with tickets sold from Russia in the north to Antarctica in the south. The atmosphere in venues, host cities and fan zones will be amazing. This will deliver a record-breaking ¥437.2 billion (£2.97 billion) nationwide boost to the economy.”

Source: The Economic Impact of Rugby World Cup 2019, Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan Organising Committee, March 2018

The economic benefits of the 2019 tournament will be shared among the 12 cities in which the stadiums are located. The Ernst and Young study also claims the 44-day event is likely to attract up to 400,000 international visitors, who will contribute up to £720m in direct expenditure (such as travel and accommodation). It is also estimated that there will be one billion video views of Rugby World Cup 2019 online content – meaning the eyes of sports fans around the world will be firmly on Japan.


A mini-economy

It is true that the preparations for the World Cup have created a mini-economy in Japan, as the country has heavily invested in ensuring the economic success of the tournament and making the event work for everybody – from stadia improvements to new roads. The 12 host cities are set to invest a total of £270m into improving transport links and infrastructure, which has created 25,000 jobs across the country.


A history of success

The success of similar sporting events is promising for Japan, and it will be interesting to see how Asia handles its first Rugby World Cup. The event is preceded by the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, ensuring that attention will be firmly on the East.

Sports events have accelerated economic development of the host regions in the past, and they continue to have a positive long-term impact. RWC 2015, held in England, was the most economically successful Rugby World Cup ever, with nearly £2.3bn generated in economic output.** Moreover, 406,000 visitors are said to have stayed an average of 14 nights during the tournament. Not only that – the last Football World Cup, held in Russia, is estimated to have given the country’s GDP a boost of between $26bn and $30.8bn over the 10-year period from 2013 through to 2023.^


Looking forward to September

With only a few weeks until the Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off, Japan will be making the most of this unique opportunity to showcase its cultural, social, technological and economic prowess on the world stage.

As Japan Rugby 2019 Chief Executive Akira Shimazu said in March 2018: “Rugby World Cup 2019 represents an unprecedented economic opportunity for the whole of Japan, with a wide range of opportunities across many sectors that will stretch beyond the 12 host cities. Through investment in infrastructure, supporting jobs or generating tourism revenue opportunities, this is a tournament that is on track to deliver a significant economic legacy for our nation.”^^

With impressive forecasts of GDP growth, it is clear that the eyes of the world will be on far more than the game itself…




* Preparation on Track for a Very Special Rugby World Cup as World Rugby Completes Key Review, Rugby World Cup, April 2019

** New Report Confirms Record-breaking Rugby World Cup 2015 Economic Impact, Rugby World Cup, May 2016

^ The Economics of the FIFA World Cup 2018, Global Banking and Finance, June 2018

^^ RWC 2019 Set to Deliver Record Economic Benefits, Rugby World Cup, March 2018

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Author: Ian Howard
Author: Ian HowardSenior Adviser