Villa Park among potential venues for 2015 Rugby World Cup
Villa Park has a long history of hosting high-profile fixtures.
It was the first stadium to have hosted England internationals in three centuries, with the most recent being a friendly against the Netherlands in 2005.
It has hosted 16 internationals in total, including three FIFA World Cup 1966 matches and four UEFA Euro 96 matches.
Villa Park has also played host to more FA Cup semi-finals than any other venue with 55, and hosted FA Cup champions Chelsea and Premier League champions Manchester City earlier this season for the FA Community Shield.
As well as a storied history, Villa Park offers some of the best hospitality and events facilities in the country.
The stadium won several awards at the 2012 Official Football Hospitality Awards, including the top Overall Matchday Hospitality award.
Other gold awards were Chef team of the year, Premier League Matchday Hospitality and the Green Award, as well as a silver in the Media Choice award and a bronze in Conference and Banqueting.
The long list features 17 potential match venues to host the 48 Rugby World Cup 2015 matches from 15 different cities across England and Wales.
The tournament will run from September 18 to October 31, 2015.
The geographical spread of the venues will allow approximately 2.9 million tickets to be made available to fans all over England and Wales, as well as approximately 400,000 international fans visiting for the event.
In order to undertake the next stage in the venue selection process, ER 2015 will continue to hold positive discussions with the venues in collaboration with their respective city councils, regional authorities and other stakeholders, including the Premier League and Football League.
The Pool Allocation Draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 is taking place in London on December 3, 2012, after which ER 2015 and RWCL will be in a position to work through the fixture schedule with all stakeholders to select a final list of up to 12 venues, which will be concluded by spring 2013.
Rugby World Cup is Rugby's showpiece event hosted every four years and one of the world's largest and most popular global sporting events.
Aston Villa Chief Executive Paul Faulkner said: "Villa Park has long been associated with major events including FA Cup semi-finals and, of course, the Community Shield which we hosted as the curtain-raiser to the 2012-13 season.
"We are delighted as a Club to be involved in the process of staging such a prestigious international event in this country."
Andy Cosslett, England Rugby 2015 Chairman, commented: "The selection of the long list of potential venues represents an exciting milestone for Rugby World Cup 2015, when fans up and down the country can begin to get excited about the prospect of one of sport's greatest events coming to their local city or town.
"Our vision for Rugby World Cup 2015 is to ensure that we take this prestigious tournament to as many parts of the country as possible and we believe that the geographical spread of venues selected will enable us to maximise the reach of the tournament.
"We will now continue to work extremely closely with the venues, cities and stakeholders, including the Premier League and Football League, to plan the scheduling of matches and city hosting programmes to select a final list of up to 12 venues, which will be agreed by the early part of next year.
"We are confident that with the venues selected we will be able to reach our target of having up to 2.9 million tickets available, opening up the tournament to more people than ever before and in turn delivering the biggest and best Rugby World Cup that there has ever been.
"The process of choosing the long list of venues was very competitive and we would like to thank the venues and cities who we have met for their full co-operation, including the venues not selected, all of whom provided us with their fulsome assistance and information required to make our selection."
Bernard Lapasset, Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman, said: "Rugby World Cup Limited is delighted with the range of locations and iconic stadia, steeped in sporting folklore, that have been selected as potential Rugby World Cup 2015 match venues.
"We are very fortunate that England possesses some of the finest sporting venues in the world."
The full long list of venues selected by ER 2015 and approved by the RWCL Board is as follows:
1. Villa Park, Birmingham