NEXT year's Africa Rugby Cup, which will also serve as a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup, will not be held on the African continent, but in France.
African nations were invited to submit bids for the event, but strong bids from Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe were turned down in favour of France, Rugby Africa (RA) announced this week.
"Following a call for applications launched to all African member federations of World Rugby as well as to France 2023, the Rugby Africa commissions have reviewed the submissions in the light of very precise criteria to evaluate the offers and enable Rugby Africa's executive committee to choose the host country of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022. Through a voting process, the candidacy of France 2023 was eventually selected," RA said in a statement on Monday.
"The well-being, health and safety of the players remained at the heart of the priorities. France 2023 (in charge of organising Rugby World Cup 2023) promises to host a tournament of the highest international standards, whether it is the match stadium, hotels, security measures, health standards relating to Covid-19 or medical infrastructure available," it added.
The decision has already drawn criticism with equitysport, a UK-registered international charity organisation aimed at making sport fairer, expressing its "disappointment and concern" at the decision.
"The confusing decision to host an African tournament in western Europe not only deprives potential local hosts from much-needed revenue streams that could expedite the ongoing development of the sport in Africa, but it also risks arresting potential growth in fan engagement for African supporters of rugby," equitysport said in a statement.
"Khaled Babbou, the Rugby Africa president, accepted that the Kenyan, Zimbabwean and Namibian bids were particularly strong and that those federations have previously organised 'other major tournaments for Rugby Africa brilliantly'," it added.
It said the opaque decision-making processes being used by transnational governing bodies in sport are in dire need of reform; as well as the "pointed and out-dated insinuations made about an entire continent in justifying this kind of decision".
"We, at equitysport, will continue to encourage a future-focused, local-first and long-term approach to the development of all sports, particularly in the global south. The World Cup in 2023 and its qualifying process is not a surprise; with a longer term focus, there is absolutely no reason why the issues identified by the RA executive committee with hosting the tournament locally could not have been resolved," it added.
Tim Harper, the founder and executive director at equitysport added:
"Too often, we hear terms like 'international standards' in global sport, when what is meant is, 'European expectations'; and all too often we hear those in positions of power use out-dated insinuations and suggestions about threats to security and safety when talking about Africa."
He mentioned a string of international events that Africa had hosted successfully in 2021, adding, "if this wasn't so disappointing, it would be laughable".
The decision follows a few months after the Confederation of African Football also barred several African countries, including Namibia, from hosting international matches because of stadiums that are not up to standard. Namibia has since been hosting its home matches at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, South Africa.
The president of the Namibia Rugby Union, Corrie Mensah, could not be reached for comment.