The Rugby League World Cup could be swamped by next year’s FIFA World Cup, fears former commentator Eddie Hemmings. He has also been left furious by Australia and New Zealand’s decision to pull out of the competition at short notice.
“They should be coming,” he tells Betfred on The Last Tackle. “We should be having the World Cup this year. Next year, it is going to be swamped. I'm sorry, but there's a FIFA World Cup happening next year, around about the same time. The Rugby League World Cup could be absolutely swamped by all the publicity for that, obviously.”
With Qatar 2022 set to kick off in November, the Rugby League World Cup will need to be carefully placed into the sporting calendar, but Hemmings cannot understand their decision, especially given the other sporting events that have taken place this year.
“I think we all agree that you couldn't have a World Cup without Australia and New Zealand, I just think it is a little bit of a strange decision from the NRL clubs. India are up here now playing Test cricket, there was the Olympic Games and Australia sent 500 or 600 and it was the same in the Paralympics.
“The Wallabies are coming up here, the England cricket team are going down there all about the same time, why have they pulled the pin on it? Why have they said they are not going to come? Is it just purely and simply because they have a six-week holiday that they have to give their players?”
“I'm convinced that if you asked the players they would say 'we will come come what may.' Clint Newton, who heads the Players Association in Australia, has said that the players are desperate to play in the World Cup. Nobody officially, I think, has asked the players, the players haven't had a voice, other than through Newton.”
The former Sky Sports commentator, whose voice has decorated some of the most famous moments in rugby league history, also criticised those two countries for prioritising their domestic game over the World Cup.
“They should be coming,’ he tells Betfred’s Mark Pearson. “They haven't done irreparable damage to the game in this country, but they've had a good go at it, they really have. Their insular attitude - I know the State of Origin is important, I know the NRL to them is important, just as important as our Super League is, but this is the international game. This is a World Cup. Not just involving England, New Zealand and Australia, but all the other nations that were going to come and play as well.
“It is a shocking decision and a lot of people are really, really upset about it. But it is on next year, we will embrace it, we will love what we see. I just hope the general public gets to see it as well.
“Believe me, the NRL will not alter their domestic season to make sure they get up here a little bit earlier. I'm convinced about that. Unless they start in January, and if they do that they will shoot themselves in the foot, as they will have messed around with the start of the season and their players won't get the six weeks off anyway.
“It was a complete and utter mess, but yes it is on, and we will certainly embrace it and love going to the matches. Fingers crossed, England will do well.”