Overseas visitors to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup could generate $782.5 million for the local economy, according to research commissioned by MasterCard.
This year's event could generate $2 billion for the global sports economy, and the credit card company said sport-associated economic activity may be worth up to $14 billion to the New Zealand economy by the end of the decade.
The research is the fourth instalment in a series commissioned by MasterCard Worldwide and undertaken by the Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) at Coventry University, England, following economic impact reports on the 2010 Six Nations and Tri Nations Rugby Tournaments and a report on rugby's emerging markets in April.
The latest report examines the value of RWC 2011 by looking at the short-term commerce flow through international fans spending in bars, clubs, shops, hotels, bookmakers and inside host stadia, along with spending by sponsors and organisations on marketing in the cities around matches.
It also examines the longer-term economic impacts on New Zealand's economy and the legacy of the tournament as a whole.
Increased tourism, civic sponsorship and business development resulting from the tournament is estimated to be $1.44 billion, the report said.
The six-week, 48-match tournament will attract an estimated cumulative global television audience of 4 billion. About 95,000 international visitors are expected to attend.
The Rugby World Cup has grown since the first tournament in 1987, which attracted a cumulative television audience of 300 million, growing to 4.2 billion for Rugby World Cup 2007.
Participating countries have risen from 16 in 1987 to 94 in 2007, with the number of countries in which the tournament is broadcast to rising from 17 to 202.
The economic impact has not been immune from this trend: RWC 2007 in France garnered an estimated US$3.47 billion, Mastercard said.
There is also the ongoing reputation of the Rugby World Cup as a global brand. "Equity in the brand is already strong, enabling high levels of recognition, awareness, positive perception and revenue generation that surpass those displayed by other sport brands," it said.
Rugby's "growth" markets will also benefit. Romania's presence in RWC since it became a member of the International Rugby Board in 1987, together with strong performances against some top ranked rugby nations, has helped to elevate both the quality and popularity of Rugby in the region as well as increase the number of participants by 222 per cent since 2003, the report said.
When the Russian team runs on the field to play against the United States, it will be the country's first appearance in a Rugby World Cup. The report said its presence in the tournament is likely to have a big effect on the development of the game in Russia and across Eastern Europe.
Rugby World Cups tend to be different to other major events such as the FIFA soccer world cup or Olympic Games in that they tend to be more about the overall experience than attending individual matches.
Based on advance sales, Rugby World Cup 2011 is expected to attract a paying attendance of around 1.35 million, with an average match attendance of 28,125.
It is anticipated that the stadiums will be full to around 84 per cent capacity, which is consistent with the levels seen at previous events.
According to a recent survey, one in 10 New Zealand residents plan to attend more than one game, while 15 per cent of the population intend to go to at least one match while 70 per cent will watch on television.
In terms of economic impact, the most important component is international visitors as they contribute money to the economy that would not have otherwise been spent in New Zealand. Developing this study in advance of the Tournament, it is difficult to predict how many fans will travel to New Zealand for the event.
Although RWC 2007 delivered more international visitors than any other sports event except football in Europe, the relative geographical isolation of New Zealand means overseas visitor numbers will be lower in 2011, but the average duration of stay is expected to be higher, as was seen in RWC 2003 in Australia, it said.
Visitors from Europe are expected to outnumber those from Australia. "This is a huge achievement for New Zealand since previous tournaments have tended to more attract visitors from neighbouring countries," the report said.
Recent sales figures suggest that there has been a surge in sales in Europe in the final ticketing phase, while significant numbers of visitors will travel from the Americas, reflecting the increasing popularity of rugby in the USA, Canada and Argentina in particular.
"This augurs well for the overall economic impact of the Tournament as tourists from these regions would be expected to spend more than those from countries close to New Zealand," the report said.