Wales, Ireland, Scotland and France will be spurned as co-hosts for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup with the tournament to be solely staged within England.
The last World Cup in the UK, which was held across four different countries and at locations such as Cardiff, Limerick, Avignon, Hull and London, was held in 2013 and was incredibly successful. It made more than £3 million in profit and is considered the most successful in history. But organisers for the tournament in 2021 have this time have decided against spreading games to other participating countries to host.
“We won’t be going to France in 2021,” tournament director Jon Dutton confirmed.
“The money that’s come into the tournament, the £25 million, is money for England, it’s devolved budget. So if a compelling bid [outside of England] comes to the table we’ll have a real good look at it, [but] I don’t anticipate that will be the case.”
The 2013 World Cup staged matches in towns including Warrington, Halifax, Workington, Rochdaleand Leigh. But the 2021 tournament is aiming to take fixtures to more cities across England, especially in the north. Locales such as Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool are expected to feature strongly.
Fourteen different venues will be used for the men’s component of the World Cup and Dutton said he has been impressed by the approaches the organisers have received to host games. They are also planning to hold a double-header final, with both the men’s and women’s World Cup finals held at the same stadium, which is likely to be at either Manchester’s Old Trafford or at London’s Wembley.
“We’ve 40 expressions of interest [from venue bidders],” Dutton said.
“That 40 is probably now moving down to 30 as people have understood what it means. We’re going to have some really tough decisions to make when selecting our venues. The Board will make decisions in December and the venues will be announced in January.
“The first stage of the bid has to be submitted by July 31. I’ve been blown away by the level of interest. People are knocking on our door saying we really want to be part of what you’re trying to do. Our job is to move from towns more to cities in 2021, into bigger venues.
“We’ve been ambitious with our targets. We aspire to hold a double-header final like in Brisbane [last year]. I think there will be very few double-headers in the men’s tournament. The two marquee properties are where we are going to open the tournament and where we’re going to close the tournament. We will stage 80% of the tournament in the northern powerhouse.
“I anticipate we will not start the tournament with England vs Australia. I think England and Australia will be in different groups, so four groups of four. It will be a different feel [than the last World Cup]. The final will be staged in front of the biggest possible audience. London will definitely stage games, we just to have work at what point and the volume of that. London will be part of the World Cup.”
The 2013 World Cup final, played by Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford, set a new international rugby league attendance record of 74,468 fans. Dutton said the overall aim of the 2021 tournament will be to take rugby league to a new audience and convert new fans.
“We have to transcend the sport. We have to attract a new audience. We want the rugby league community to be a great part of this tournament but we can’t exclusively talk to them, it has to be much wider than that. We need to market ourselves as an entertainment product.”
The women’s and wheelchair rugby league World Cups are expected to have a bigger focus, profile and impetus in three year’s time compared with in previous World Cups. Female players will have all their travel and accommodation costs covered by the tournament.
“This is an incredible opportunity for the sport to showcase women’s rugby league,” Dutton said.
“If we’re all honest, women’s rugby league is behind cricket and football and rugby union. Hopefully by having the showcase here, by having the BBC coverage, putting the England women in some great venues and alongside the men will inspire more girls to start playing the game.
“Our schedule for 2021 will look more like the 2013 World Cup when you’ve got activity pretty much every day. There will be 65 games overall. We will start the tournament, play the men’s group games, then the men’s quarter-finals.
“Normally we have a week gap but we won’t – that’s when we’ll start the women’s and wheelchair tournaments and then we’ll have that continuity all the way through and the crescendo will be the finals weekend with the three finals."