The government has pledged to plough £10m (US$13.2m, €12m) into rugby league infrastructure in the north of England as part of a bid to host the 2021 World Cup.
Officially revealing the proposal for England host the showpiece, the Rugby Football League (RFL) and culture secretary John Whittingdale also made public the government’s commitment to put £15m (US$19.9m, €17.9m) extra finance to support the bid.
Making a bid for the tournament was unveiled as one of the government’s sporting priorities during chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement last year. The investment in infrastructure forms part of the Conservative government’s ambitions to create a Northern Powerhouse.
If the bid is successful, twelve stadiums will be selected from a shortlist which includes purpose-built rugby league grounds as well as football stadiums such as Old Trafford, Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park and Wembley.
The RFL is targeting a record one million spectators to attend the 31 games – an average attendance of just over 32,000 for each match. In addition, the bid includes plans to host a Festival of Rugby League, including women’s and wheelchair competitions.
“The government’s support for the RFL’s bid will help put on a larger tournament than the 2013 World Cup that not only brings economic benefits to host towns and cities in rugby league’s heartland, but promotes the sport to a wider audience both nationally and around the world,” said Whittingdale.
RFL chair Brian Barwick added that hosting the tournament “provides an ideal opportunity for the nation to demonstrate again to a global audience its ability to stage a world-class sporting event we can all be proud of”.
World governing body, the Rugby League International Federation, will decide the host for the World Cup this autumn.
First published on www.sportsmanagement.co.uk, 1 July, written by Matthew Campelli