Rugby League World Cup chief hails ticket sales but obstacles remain with 100 days to go
But, with exactly 100 days to go, Dutton has warned of the obstacles to still overcome before England kick off the tournament against Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on October 15.
There were less than 12 weeks to go when, on August 5, 2021, Dutton and his team were forced to finally concede defeat to the coronavirus pandemic by postponing the tournament for 12 months and he says challenges remain.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the environment that we live in,” Dutton told the PA news agency.
“We’ve had a tournament postponed and we’ve got a cost of living crisis with inflation running at almost 10 per cent.
“From a core rugby league community, we absolutely appreciate how challenging that might be on people’s disposable income.”
Organisers agreed to refund thousands of pounds in ticket sales following the postponement but Dutton, who recently undertook a whistle-stop trip to Australia to shore up support, believes they are now geared up for a final push in their bid to make the 16th World Cup the most successful ever.
“A hundred days to go marks a huge moment for the sport,” he said. “We have an opportunity to be trailblazers, to deliver something that is transformative.
“This is the biggest tournament in 127 years and it comes at a time when hopefully the sport comes together for the betterment of the game.”
The tournament will comprise 61 matches in 21 stadiums across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions, all broadcast live by the BBC.
In addition to attracting record-breaking sponsorship, officials say hospitality sales have topped the previous best and they are encouraged by ticket sales.
Over 5,000 tickets have been snapped up for England women’s opening match against Brazil at Headingley on November 1 and organisers expect sell-outs for the opening game in Newcastle as well as the finals at Old Trafford on November 19.
“The interest in the tournament and demand for tickets has been great to see, particularly after the disappointment of postponement last year,” Dutton said.
“We are now close to selling out a number of our tournament fixtures, with the interest in women’s and wheelchair matches particularly encouraging to see.
“With 100 days to go, you’ll see a lot more above-the-line advertising. We’ve been very careful with our budget to make sure our visibility is more in the immediacy before the tournament rather than the seven years that we’ve had.
“It’s been a long journey but now we’re at the crescendo of what I think is going to be an amazing moment for the sport.
“A hundred days to go to marks the starting gun for the run to the line. We’re working our trophies very hard – we will have had about 20 host impact events – and it’s important that we leave no stone unturned.
“When we get to the 19th of November, we want to be able to look back knowing we’ve given everything we’ve got.”