The supposed Rugby league International Federation (Or what ever they are called today) is currently meeting in Singapore (I’m not joking) and thrashing out the future of the international game which spending huge money on high priced hotels in a country where Rugby League has never been played.
During this time a big decision was made, that England would host the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Of course this decision was timed to be released just a few hours before the announcement that England would host the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup.
Ahhhh….off to a flying start here!
The decision to award the 2013 Rugby League World Cup to England is beyond terrible. Let me tell you why….
Building On Success
Rugby League is well on the back foot when it comes to international credibility. Much of the criticism is justified, but some of it is a little unfair.
The game does have a core of decent enough international teams and it is played in a number of different countries, but the gap between the top two teams and the rest of the world is big, and then the gap between the next level of teams and the teams outside of the top ten in gigantic.
Despite all this, the 2008 Rugby League World Cup was well received. It had a good competition format, it got good crowds, the stadium selection was nice, it made money, but most importantly, it convinced the driving forces within the game that international Rugby League was worth supporting.
The Rugby League Community
Fans responded by coming out and supporting their national sides. Australia always had big crowds, as did New Zealand. The England always bring over a decent sized touring party.
For me though the biggest highlight of the 2008 World Cup was the fact that Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, heck even the Aboriginal Community, they all got to finally support their national side and be proud of them.
I attended the Samoa vs Tonga game at Penrith football stadium and let me tell you, it was magic. Samoan and Tongan supporters were singing all game, when both sides did their war dance the stadium was wild!
Its the first game I’ve been to that had a charged atmosphere, but at the same time everyone was just loving the chance to just enjoy the game, it is the most family friendly sporting environment I have ever been in.
It was the chance for these communities to support they game and they did so with pride and passion.
Television And Sponsors
While Channel Nines coverage was, as expected, pretty ordinary, the ratings for games were fantastic. Between Nine and Fox Sports every game was covered live.
It was the first time in my lifetime that people watched games and were talking about sides other than Australia and New Zealand during the week.
The form of Jarryd Hayne for Fiji, the face off between the Australian Aboriginals side and the New Zealand Maori. Englands terrible form, the passionate Samoa vs Tonga clash, the surprising Irish…..the story of the World Cup was for once not about Australia.
It all ended in an amazing, magical final, a game I’m so glad I can say I attended.
Sponsors who support the National Rugby League in a huge way saw the light. They jumped on board and got their moneys worth with a fantastic competition. It was a chance for the game to show it had meaning on an international level, and it passed with flying colours.
The Turn Around
Keep in mind that the 2000 World Cup was nothing short of a disaster. Crowds were terrible, the TV coverage was average, the weather late in the year in England is abysmal and the competition lost so much money that the RFL was in real danger of complete collapse.
It took years worth of Australia and New Zealand tours to the UK for the game in the UK to survive at any level. It was that serious.
On top of all this, the credibility of the international game was shattered.
Flexible eligibility rules, players switching teams and scorelines that were beyond lop sided. Only the most die hard Rugby league fan even cared, and that wasn’t enough.
Turning Their Back On The Supporters
The decision to hold the tournament in England in 2013 is a disaster for a very simple reason.
By holding the game in England you are turning your back on:
*The largest supporter bases in the Rugby League World.
*The largest TV audiences in the Rugby League World.
*The biggest group of committed sponsors in the Rugby League World.
With games played between midnight and 6am Australian time, you’ve basically cut out the idea of the game being shown to the biggest audience possible. That directly effects the income the World Cup will hopefully make.
On top of that, you destroy any interest stations through Asia would have had in the World Cup, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, PNG, you take a great audience for the game and you turn them all off.
You also make all of those great sponsors for the 2008 World Cup walk away. Australian companies want to target Australians and Kiwi’s, they have no use with having their logo’s paraded around Northern England!
Then there are the fans.
The supporter group that consists of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands so outweighs that of the whole of the European Rugby League supporter base that its completely unfathomable that moving the World Cup was even considered.
You just took the competition away from the vast majority of your paying customers!
Downgrading The Competition
You take a competition that took the game to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Townsville, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, the Gold Coast……most of the capital cities in Australia hosted World Cup games and every major population center on the Australian Eastern Seaboard hosted a match.
We go from this to….Hull, Wigan, Huddersfield.
Yes London, Manchester and Leeds will host games, but that’s two northern cities that will struggle to get decent crowds and London, who will only get a crowd because of traveling supporters.
So we have taken the World Cup from being a large scale, national event, and turned it into a competition based in a small region of Northern England with a game or two in London.
Congratulation, you just contracted the World Cup.
What To Expect In 2013
First off lets get this out of the way. The World Cup will be played in what most would consider winter conditions. Lots of rain, cold wet fields. That is what you get after the Super League season has finished. It is why Super League switched its season, to avoid that type of weather, now, we’ll be playing the games showcase event in it.
Right now there are three teams in England thats get decent crowds. St Helens, Leeds and Wigan. Outside of those teams it is a struggle to get a supporter base that even approaches 10,000 in a regular basis.
This small supporter base is the one that is being relied on to attend games. They don;t attend games to see their local game play, so they won’t be turning up to watch Samoa vs Tonga or Fiji vs France.
Hell they don’t even turn up to watch England place France!
So the weather will be bad, and the crowds will be small.
Then we have the English press which will savage the World Cup, and probably rightfully so. On top of that we’ll have ridiculous kickoff times to accommodate Sky Sports.
Do you see why I’m so worried?
I think we won’t see another World Cup played before 2020 after this looming disaster is over. This was a terrible, terrible decision.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
Aug 01, 2020 0