World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton has confirmed that contingency plans have been drawn up should the proposed new stadium in Workington not be ready to host a game in 2021.
The proposed £25 million facility was revealed as one of the 17 venues that will host a game during the competition, despite work yet to start on building the stadium.
But the proposals, for an 8,000-capacity community stadium for Workington Reds FC and Workington Town, have divided opinion across Allerdale since the scale of the project was first revealed, with some claiming that an overhaul of the town’s rundown sports grounds is long overdue and that the new stadium will raise the town’s profile, bring revenue into the town and encourage the next generation of sporting stars.
But some opposition councillors have branded it a “white elephant” and a “vanity project”, while accusing council chiefs of jumping the gun, while describing the venture as “risky”.
An outline business case for the development was presented and agreed at January’s Executive meeting of Allerdale Council, but the project depends on the demolition of the Reds’ Borough Park stadium and last week, local Allerdale councillor Joe Sandwith, who is also a shareholder of the football club, pushed for an Extraordinary General Meeting of the club, while claiming that club shareholders were not against the idea but wanted to be sure that the figures stack up and the Reds would not be left homeless if the stadium plans were to fall through.
With a short timeframe between the expected completion date and the World Cup, and political disagreements in the Council, there are concerns the stadium won’t be ready in time to host a game.
However, Dutton has confirmed that backup plans have been prepared, although he still believes the new stadium will be completed in time.
“We have set some milestones and the consortium, led by the local authority, have to achieve those milestones,” he said.
“We are confident they will reach them, but we will have to work with them to achieve those milestones. Should the absolute worst happen, we have a backup stadium as part of our overall plan.”
A statement released by Allerdale council said: “The council’s bid to host the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) in 2021 included a fantastic new community stadium in Workington. A lot of work has been ongoing with partners at both clubs and the RLWC to get to where we are today, and we are confident we will be able to meet the milestones set down by the organisers of the event.
“Contingency planning by the organisers of this type is normal with any event like this. However, the article also expresses the organiser’s confidence in our ability to meet their milestones and be a host in 2021.”