Following the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from the Rugby League World Cup due to Covid-19 concerns, new dates for the postponed 2021 tournament have been confirmed.
The five-week competition will now take place between October 15 and November 19, 2022, in between the Commonwealth Games and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Concerns were raised that the RLWC landing smack bang in the middle of those events, among others, would have a detrimental impact on rugby league’s showpiece event but the World Cup’s chief executive Jon Dutton believes there’s an opportunity for a celebration of sport.
Speaking to the Super League's 'Out Of Your League' Podcast, Dutton said, “We have to avoid the FIFA World Cup. It isn't even an option and when we look at the sports calendar, I see nothing but opportunity.
“We start off with the women's football European Championships, which I think will be tremendous and will show female athletes once again on centre stage. We then follow that up immediately with the Commonwealth Games, and we start our tournament, during which the World Gymnastics Championships happen in Liverpool.
“So you've got four huge events in five months, all in England, and we will play a really special part in that. Many people say, ‘Oh, well, is that not a threat from tickets and all the things and sponsors?’
“I don't think it is, because actually we're really in a really strong place. I think that’s a massive celebration of sports and we're already talking to those organisations about linking up and celebrating sport beyond rugby league.”
With 32 different nations, 18 host towns and cities and 61 games over the five week period, rescheduling the tournament will have brought up some significant challenges but Dutton believes it will end up in a good place.
“It was really complicated in the first place, it took us 12 months to put the schedule together, so we guys got 21 venues, 18 different host towns and cities. We got 61 games across a five week period. So it was pretty complicated to begin with.
“Then you've got to overlay what is a really complicated football season. So, of course, the Premier League starts, Champions League, Championship, FA Cup. And then it stops because everyone goes to Qatar and plays in the FIFA World Cup.
“I like problem-solving and it's certainly a complex problem. I think we'll end up in a really good place. Our venues, our towns and cities have been just incredibly supportive and appreciative of some of the things that we've been through.
So there'll be a little bit of disturbance - that's natural and unavoidable. But in the main will end up pretty much in the same place. And we know we've seen through our ballots that people want to come to Old Trafford.
“We've seen the Emirates, I'm really excited to see that game as one of our top sellers. And as we all look forward to Magic and Newcastle, we know people love watching rugby league in Newcastle, so we start off in a strong position.”