The United Arab Emirates is poised to make a bid to stage the 2021 Rugby League World Cup national team tournament, according to UAE Rugby League president Sol Mokdad.
The Middle East is not a traditional hotbed for the sport but Mokdad believes the facilities and financial backing are in place to host a competition that would add to the region’s growing roster of major sporting events.
Mokdad told UAE newspaper The National: “This is an ideal location for a World Cup. It is exactly between Australia and the UK, there is always talk in the media about the big events being hosted in Dubai.
“With Expo 2020 being here, with all the infrastructure being created, it will be the perfect time. It would also be the UAE's 50th birthday, so it all aligns – it will just come down to us getting partners who can help us get that bid together.”
Major rugby league countries Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, along with France, are the only nations to have hosted Rugby League World Cup matches across the 14 editions to date, with a South African bid for the 2017 tournament losing out to a joint Australia-New Zealand pitch.
In October, the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) unveiled the bidding process for the 2021 World Cup as it seeks to implement a consistent four-year cycle for its showpiece event.
Expressions of interest have been sought by the first quarter of 2015. Invitations to tender will then be sent out and an evaluation committee appointed, with bids submitted during the first quarter of 2016. A final decision on the successful application is expected in October 2016, giving the successful host five full years to prepare.
The UAE’s interest in the 2021 World Cup comes as it was confirmed that Dubai Sports City will be the venue for the qualifying match between South Africa and Lebanon for a place at the 2017 World Cup this October. The game on October 30 will be the first full international to be played in Dubai.