The Rugby Football League (RFL) has today (Thursday) confirmed that England will bid to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup national team tournament.
The organisation, which serves as the governing body for rugby league in England, has received £15m (€18.1m/$20.1m) from the UK government for the bid, while the government will also put forward an additional £10m to benefit the sport’s infrastructure in the north of England.
The 2021 World Cup will be the largest edition since 2000, with the tournament set to feature 16 teams and comprise a programme of 31 matches.
Should the bid be successful, 12 stadiums from across the country will be selected from a shortlist that features both rugby league and other sporting grounds. Venues on the list include London’s Wembley Stadium, as well as Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, the homes of English Premier League football teams Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively. Newcastle’s St James’ Park, which has hosted Super League’s Magic Weekend in recent seasons, is also a potential venue.
The RFL said that 80 per cent of World Cup matches would be staged in the Lancashire and Yorkshire regions of England, with “showpieces fixtures” to take place in the Midlands, London and North East.
Brian Barwick, chairman of the RFL, said: “The Rugby League World Cup 2021 provides an ideal opportunity for the nation to demonstrate again to a global audience its ability to stage a world class sporting event we all can be proud of. It will top off a superb decade of incredible sporting events held in this country that began in 2012 with the London Olympics.
“I am proud to present the English bid, that includes plans to host the Women’s and Wheelchair World Cups and one that I think offers rugby league the best opportunity to grow as a sport both in this country and importantly helping the international federation to grow the game across the globe.”
England, which also hosted the 2013 edition of the tournament, is the first to officially declare its bid, although rival submissions are expected from South Africa and North America. A winning bid is expected to be chosen during the fourth quarter of this year.
John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK, has spoken out on behalf of the government in support of the bid. He said: “The government's support for the RFL's bid will help put on a larger tournament 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.”
The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) announced in February 2014 that Australia and New Zealand would co-host the 2017 World Cup, with the joint bid chosen over a rival pitch from South Africa. Papua New Guinea was granted hosting rights to three pool stage games in October.