The organisers of the now-postponed 2021 Rugby League World Cup want top countries Australia and New Zealand to sign binding agreements to commit to participating in the tournament next year after they ultimately forced the 12-month delay.
Following a meeting on Wednesday evening, the RLWC2021 board yesterday announced the “extremely difficult” decision to postpone the showpiece event in the wake of the decision of World Cup holders Australia and New Zealand to withdraw from the competition.
The organising committee said it was left with no choice but to push the event back after the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League last month stated they would not be sending their teams to England over player welfare and safety concerns related to Covid-19 in the UK.
But RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton is now looking to sign binding legal agreements with the respective countries to ensure their participation in 2022 and to avoid further delay.
He said: “We would like agreements to be absolutely binding with signed participation agreements and we’ve already started work on that. We’ve worked hard for six years to get the tournament into a great position.
“Into the weekend, it became apparent we couldn’t continue and that it wouldn’t have been the world-class event we had hoped. The work now is about ensuring we have everything in place, such as the guarantees and conditions and we’re confident we’ll be able to do that. It’s beyond disappointing we can’t stage it this year.”
The organisers have the backing of the European Rugby League, the sport’s continental governing body, which stated that it is “imperative that the ARLC and NZRL, which have pressured for the delay, fully deliver on their renewed commitment to this pinnacle event for the sport; it is time for actions, not words.”
It was feared a switch to 2022 would see the RLWC face a clash with soccer’s Fifa World Cup, which is to be held in Qatar in November and December next year, but Dutton is almost certain there will be no overlap between the two tournaments.
The organisers will hold talks with the domestic top-tier Super League and the Rugby Football League, the national body, to arrange dates for next year, while the ERL said it will work with its member nations and the International Rugby League to consider the calendar for autumn 2021 and beyond, including necessary adjustments to the 2025 World Cup qualifying processes in the regions.
Dutton said: “We have some draft dates but we want to do some consultation in the right way. We’re conscious of the Fifa World Cup and we wouldn’t expect to go against that for understandable reasons. We hope to confirm those dates very shortly, we just want to speak to Super League and the RFL about their season.”