If I ruled the World Cup

Do you ever read those newspaper or magazine articles that ask people what they would do if they could rule the world for a single day?

I would have little difficulty in answering that question if anyone ever asked it of me.

Unfortunately, no one has. So this month, after having watched the World Cup unfold, I have decided to ask it of myself, breaking the news in this column.

What would I do if I could be the world leader for a single day?

Of course I would be a benevolent dictator.

My first priority would be to bring peace to the world.

But after that, I would turn to reorganising Rugby League on a world scale.

My objective would be to encourage more people to participate, whether by playing, officiating, spectating or watching the game on TV or on the various streaming platforms that are now available for all of us.

And the way to do that would be to create an international calendar that would have wide appeal, going well beyond established Rugby League supporters.

But how could I do that, bearing in mind that international Rugby League has to be fitted around the club calendar in both Australasia and Europe?

It would actually be quite simple.

I would restrict the number of league fixtures in each competition to make space for the international game.

And I would then blank off the month of July to be reserved for international competition on both sides of the world.

I’ve pointed out before that late October and November can be miserable months in the United Kingdom with a combination of rain, cold temperatures and darkness, especially after the clocks go back.

It’s not surprising that not many Australian supporters want to come to England for a World Cup at that time of the year.

In contrast, England is a wonderful country in July, with warm temperatures and long days, and often with only limited amounts of bad weather. Far more people from the southern hemisphere would want to make the journey to follow their teams.

A World Cup at that time of the year would be likely to attract bigger crowds in England, while a World Cup played in Australia at that time would also attract many English families down under. It would be a win-win proposition.

Returning to reality for a moment, however, would it ever be possible to persuade the governing bodies in both hemispheres to vacate July to allow international Rugby League to flourish in that particular month?

Not in the short term, although it’s worth taking into consideration that the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off the day after the Rugby League World Cup Final, has been organised in mid-season for most of the world’s football competitions and they have all gone along with it.

The Premier League and the Championship will both be playing no fixtures for the duration of the tournament.

So if football can do it, why not Rugby League?

If only it were that simple!

For the time being that can only be a dream for our sport, at least as far as the men’s game is concerned.

But what about the women’s game?

One of my striking memories of the Rugby League World Cup was being at York among more than 7,000 supporters as the England Women played New Zealand in the Cup semi-final.

Women’s Rugby League is far more flexible than the men’s version because it is not yet fully professionalised, even though it is heading in that direction, especially in Australia.
In 2022 the women’s competition down under, the NRLW, didn’t commence until August.

So it would be much easier, for example, to arrange a three-match series in June or July for England to play the Jillaroos or the Kiwi Ferns and I’m certain it would draw some very respectable crowds and it would be a saleable asset for television.

Perhaps we could have a three-cornered tournament.

Over to you, IMG!

This is a slightly amended version of Martyn Sadler’s ‘The Final Whistle’ column in the December issue of Rugby League World magazine. You can take out a subscription to the print or digital editions of the magazine by going here.