40 towns and cities have formally declared an interest in becoming a host venue for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup – including some from outside England which the tournament’s chief executive admits they would be foolish to ignore.
Jon Dutton, the man who has been tasked with delivering the 2021 tournament, told League Express this week that they have been delighted with the level of interest shown in hosting games in the next World Cup.
He said: “The contract with the Government (who pledged £15m of financial support for England’s bid) is to stage the tournament in England but if a strong bid came forward somewhere else, we’ve got to listen to it. We’ve been really pleased, and even quite surprised, with the interest.
“We’re up to forty potential venues now, which is great. It continues to rise, and we’ll have workshops in January where these towns and cities will find out how to put their bid together, then they’ve got seven months to put it into place.”
When asked if venues in France and Ireland had expressed an interest, Dutton said: “Yes, we’ve got towns and cities there who are interested.”
Those venues who are interested will likely find out before the end of next year if they are successful. And while 80 per cent of the games are scheduled to be across the game’s northern heartlands, Dutton insists there will definitely be some games played in the capital.
“We will absolutely stage games in London, we have made that commitment,” Dutton said. “London is critically important to us.” Wembley – which is in contention to host the final along with Old Trafford – will almost certainly be given a high-profile game, while the London Stadium, which has hosted international rugby league in recent years, is also in the mix.
Dutton also insists that the increase to 16 teams will result in a more straightforward tournament – hopefully eliminating any frustrations that emanated like in this year’s event, when Ireland failed to qualify from the group stages despite two wins from their three games.
“We’re going to keep it simple; we’ll have four groups of four,” he said. “That’s something that everyone across the world can recognise and resonate with. It also eliminates any unfortunate possibilities that arose this time.”