Rugby League World Cup 2021, the body organising and running the tournament in England next year, has entered into a commercial partnership with NuArca, a blockchain-based non-fungible token (NFT) provider. 

The partnership will result in the creation of an NFT fan token and marketplace for the tournament, which will take place next autumn after a delay of 12 months caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Within the NFT platform that NuArca will help create, fans will be able to participate in competitions, earn experiences and collect prizes, which will be NFT collectibles celebrating the history of and achievements in the Rugby League World Cup.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021’s chief executive, said: "NFTs has been a fast-developing sector for the sports industry in 2021 and our announcement with NuArca aligns with our desire to embrace innovation alongside the opportunity to bring RLWC2021 to the widest possible audience.”

Todd Cooper, NuArca’s chief executive, and co-founder, added: “Becoming the official NFT partner for RLWC2021 is a great opportunity for NuArca to bring rugby league fans from all over the world together, and we are looking forward to introducing our NFT fan engagement programme to them.”

Specific launch timings and pricing structures for the NTF marketplace are yet to be confirmed.

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Cazoo, the UK-based online car marketplace, is the tournament’s principal partner, while other sponsors include apparel partner Kappa, professional services partner Deloitte, logistics partner Kuehne+Nagel, and soft drink partner Pepsi Max.

Last month, tournament organisers said they wanted top countries Australia and New Zealand to commit to participating in the tournament next year after they ultimately forced the 12-month delay by refusing to travel to England for the remainder of 2021. 

The RLWC2021 board announced in early August that because of the Oceanic countries withdrawing from the competition, they had no choice but to postpone the showpiece event, which will now take place between 15 October and 19 November next year.

Dutton has said, regarding next year’s rescheduled tournament: “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.”

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 has said he is almost certain there will be no overlap between the two tournaments.