A great World Cup deserves better planning

MARTYN SADLER, the editor of League Express, criticises the faulty planning behind the allocation of fixtures for the World Cup.

This weekend we are at the quarter-final stage of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and the tournament is hotting up.

Earlier today the Aussies looked tremendous in beating Samoa 46-0, while tomorrow (Saturday) we will see two matches in New Zealand, when Tonga takes on Lebanon in Christchurch at 5.00pm local time, followed by New Zealand playing Fiji at Wellington at 7.30pm local time on Saturday evening.

The quarter-finals are then wrapped up when England play Papua New Guinea in Melbourne in a game that kicks off at 4.00pm local time.

That means, for English Rugby League supporters who want to watch the match live, getting up at 5.00am on Sunday morning.

Obviously the more fanatical England fans will ensure that they are up with the larks to see Wayne Bennett’s boys record what we all hope will be a resounding victory. But how many people who are not fanatical Rugby League supporters will bother to tune in, even if they know that the broadcast is due to take place?

Given that Rugby League desperately needs terrestrial TV coverage in the UK and that a World Cup is a great vehicle for getting that coverage, who on earth planned the tournament so that we would kick off a game at possibly the worst possible time to attract a strong TV audience?

The Australian quarter-final began at just after 9.00am GMT on Friday. So why couldn’t England’s game have started at the same time on Saturday, when we could have been assured of a healthy TV audience at a time when sports fans are used to getting up to watch major sporting events in Australia and New Zealand? It would have meant England’s game kicking off at 8.00pm locally in Melbourne, and I’m sure that would have been a good time for drawing a decent crowd to the match.

And why have two semi-finals in New Zealand on the same day, scheduled in such a way as to ensure that no one could attend both games?

Surely it would have made sense to stage one of those games on the Sunday, so that anyone who was inclined to be there for both matches could have done so.

I’m amazed that Nigel Wood, as the Chairman of the Rugby League International Federation, has allowed a situation to arise whereby England’s quarter-final won’t be shown at a time that will attract casual sports fans.

It’s an opportunity missed.

But then, isn’t that often the case with Rugby League?

Martyn Sadler writes his ‘Talking Rugby League’ column every week in League Express, available in the shops on Monday and digitally on Sunday evening.