York looks will have to wait more than a year for World Cup glory.
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be postponed until 2022 after embattled officials finally conceded defeat in their bid to stage the tournament as planned in the autumn.
Several games were due to be played at the LNER Community Stadium.
Officials initially vowed to press ahead regardless after Australia and New Zealand pulled out, citing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, and had hoped a direct plea to players would be enough to keep the tournament alive.
However, a statement issued last Friday on behalf of all 16 NRL clubs pledging support for the boycott and calling for a postponement proved to be the last straw.
And on Thursday (5 August), the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the government announced their intention to stage the flagship event in 2022.
Due to host semi-finals
York was down to host eight fixtures at the LNER Community Stadium, all in the women’s tournament, starting off with New Zealand vs France.
The full fixture list for York was:
- New Zealand vs France (women’s): Wednesday 10th November – 5pm
- Australia vs Cook Islands (women’s): Wednesday 10th November – 7.30pm
- New Zealand vs Cook Islands (women’s): Sunday 14th November – 5pm
- Australia vs France (women’s): Sunday 14th November – 7.30pm
- France vs Cook Islands (women’s): Thursday 18th November – 5pm
- Australia vs New Zealand (women’s): Thursday 18th November – 7.30pm
- Women’s Semi-Final (teams TBC): Monday 22nd November – 5pm
- Women’s Semi-Final (teams TBC): Monday 22nd November – 7.30pm
York was also the team training base for New Zealand’s men and women’s team, as well as the women’s sides from Australia, France and Cook Islands.
But all that was thrown into turmoil after both the Australian and New Zealand Rugby Leagues announced their intention to boycott the tournament due to health concerns.
Among the partners who had been working with the Rugby League World Cup team to bring the event to York were City of York Council, York City Knights, Make It York, GLL, York St John University, University of York and Queen Ethelberga’s.
The postponement means the hard work will now begin again for officials, who will need to find extra funding to keep the World Cup operation in place for another 12 months. Extra staff were taken on on 12-month contracts which are due to expire at the end of November.
Officials will have to start fresh negotiations with the BBC, who were due to show all 61 matches across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair events, as well as with stadium and camp hosts.
They must also agree on a new timetable, with officials likely to want to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.
Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, said:
“Whilst the Rugby League World Cup isn’t happening as soon as we’d hoped, we are glad there are still plans for it going ahead and look forward to welcoming the world’s best rugby league athletes next year.
“We are working closely with the Rugby League World Cup to prepare for a covid safe tournament next year. The association with the world cup has already seen over £300,000 invested in sports facilities with York’s communities, and we’re determined to build on that legacy.
“With our partners, we will continue to make sure this event is a huge success and leaves a real mark on the city, inspiring future generations for years to come.”
Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York said:
“We understand that it’s been a hugely difficult decision to make and appreciate all the hard work and effort that has been made by the tournament organisers to try to safely stage the event this year.
One of the main objectives for bringing the event to York was to ensure a long-lasting legacy in the community through ongoing activities with local schools, clubs and wider investment in the sport. There has been so much great work happening in this area already and this will continue to be a strong focus as we build up to the rescheduled event next year.
We are looking forward to working with the tournament team and stakeholders across the city to plan the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in 2022. “
Jon Flatman, Chairman, York City Knights said :
“The Rugby League World Cup team have worked tirelessly to explore all options for the tournament, and whilst it won’t be going ahead as planned this year, we are looking forward to working with them, and partners across the city to make it happen in 2022.
We now have another year to build on the plans to ensure a long-lasting legacy for the event – working with schools and across the local community to continue to inspire people about the sport. It is set to be a fantastic event – bringing world class talent in Rugby League to York and something to really get excited about for next year!”