World Cup ticket push underway after prime-time TV coup

The chief executive of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 has vowed to do all he can to drive ticket sales after a small coup for the sport on prime-time television.

Last Tuesday marked 200 days until the start of the tournament and the trophies were taken on a two-day tour across every host town and city from Newcastle to London.

And the week finished with the World Cup being given an appearance on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway on ITV to millions of viewers.

It’s the start of a strong promotional push with a new marketing campaign launched with the slogan “This Is Real Impact”, and in the build-up to the tournament there will be billboards across host towns and cities plus adverts on broadcast and social media.

Ticket sales are up on this time last year, before the World Cup’s 12-month postponement, and chief executive Jon Dutton said his team were continuing to work hard.

“Over the next few months we need to raise awareness, create more excitement, make sure we’re really visible in the towns and cities that are staging the games, and take opportunities like the one on Saturday night to get out to a different audience,” he said.

The best-selling tickets at present are the men’s opener between England and Samoa at St James’ Park, the men’s semi-final at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, and the double-header final at Old Trafford.

However, Dutton also revealed a particularly strong interest in Scotland’s match against Italy at Newcastle’s Kingston Park on the second day of the tournament, England’s group game against France at the University of Bolton Stadium, and the wheelchair games at EIS Sheffield.

He also revealed that ticket sales for England women’s opener against Brazil at Headingley had already surpassed the 4,235 record crowd for a women’s Rugby League match in the UK, set at the same ground last year for the Super League Grand Final.

“We’re ambitious and we want to sell that game out,” said Dutton.

“What a statement for England to open on the BBC in the middle of the week and the stadium is sold out.”

Dutton is also continuing his push to promote the tournament and keep strong relations Down Under and hopes to travel to Australia in June after his plans to do so earlier this year were dashed by the continued practical challenges of getting into the country.

He will meet with NRL chief executives but has been keeping in touch with them already and says that “there’s a good feeling to relations 12,000 miles away” and a “really different” feel to last year when Australia and New Zealand withdrew from the World Cup.

Also on Dutton’s agenda will be securing a TV contract for the tournament in Australia, with no broadcaster yet signed up.

“We’re taking our time, we’re not in a rush,” he said. “We want to make sure we get the right deal.”

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