Rugby League World Cup organisers hoping to build on success of Euros

Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup are anticipating record-breaking crowds across the board as they look to capitalise on the success of the Women’s Euro 2022.

Record aims: Jon Dutton, the chief executive officer of the Rugby League World Cup. Picture: Paul Currie/
Record aims: Jon Dutton, the chief executive officer of the Rugby League World Cup. Picture: Paul Currie/

Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton told a media briefing that he expects sell-outs for the men’s opening fixture between England and Samoa in Newcastle on October 15, both semi-finals and the finals day at Old Trafford on November 19.

Officials also expect to break the attendance record for women’s rugby in either code when England host Brazil in the opening game at Headingley and a crowd of over 5,000 is guaranteed for England’s opening wheelchair clash with Australia at the Copper Box in London.

The current women’s record of 15,862 was set for England’s rugby union Six Nations clash with Ireland in Leicester earlier this year and tournament revenue director Mick Hogan said: “It’s our intention to go higher than that at Headingley.”

Dutton says that would provide a “seminal” moment for rugby league and produce an unexpected dividend from the postponement of the World Cup from 2021 due to the pandemic.

“I attended the opening game (of Euro 2022) at Old Trafford and felt the palpable excitement to be part of something special,” he said.

“It’s a real great precursor to what we have ahead and obviously the Commonwealth Games are about to start in the next few days.

“From actually being at the games, it just feels like a festival, a celebration, I think all of this is incredibly positive.

“We wouldn’t have had this in ’21. I said we were proud to be on our own in ’21 but, as it happens, we are delighted to be amongst other events in ‘22 and seeing the positivity and the optimism and witnessing a real family audience.”

Dutton revealed that organisers refunded 19 per cent of ticket sales following the postponement last August but 48 per cent of fans indicated they planned to re-purchase. He expects two-thirds of sales to be completed from August onwards and says almost three-quarters of the advertising budget was kept back for the last six weeks of the tournament.

Dutton also revealed that 15 commercial deals have been completed so far and there is likely to be another cash boost when organisers finalise a deal for the overseas television rights.

He also said there will be more games on BBC 1 and BBC 2 than the FIFA World Cup - somewhere between 35 and 40 matches and every second of every minute live across the BBC’s other channels.