For a few years now a lot of people in Great Britain have invested all of their hopes and dreams in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup being a success.
Whether that means it is a financial success, that the competition gains enough national attention to boost the domestic game, or just that England plays well during the competition, there is a lot riding on the World Cup giving the game a positive boost in some way.
So what happens if that doesn’t happen? What happens if the World Cup is a dismal failure?
The game in Great Britain can not afford for the World Cup to be a financial failure. The 2000 World Cup pushed Rugby League in Great Britain to the wall and it is fair to suggest that the game still has never really recovered from that. With Rugby League’s financial situation in Great Britain dire at best, you would think that the 2013 World Cup failing could be a final hammer blow to the game that sends its spiraling towards semi professionalism.
When the 2000 World Cup financially crippled the Rugby Football League, the ARL and NZRL stepped up and toured England for the next five straight seasons. Every single World Club Challenge game was played there for the next decade. I can’t see that happening again.
A lot of people expect England to do well on the field. You have to remember that the RFL doesn’t care about Wales, Scotland or Ireland whatsoever. How they play is of little importance to most people in the game unfortunately. Everything rides on the success of England and you can see that in the amount of marketing that surrounds the England team compared to the marketing being done for anyone else.
If England play poorly at the World Cup, how will people react? While many people are aiming for Australia, and forgetting all about the World Champion New Zealand team, I tend to think England should be worried about the likes of Samoa and Tonga. If England starts getting smashed by Australia (Which will happen), are unable to beat New Zealand (Which I have no doubt about), and then start losing to the likes of Samoa or Tonga, how will people in England react?
For some reason people were shocked at how terrible England were in the 2008 World Cup. There is no doubt their performance in that tournament had a flow on effect to the game. Now even people in northern England don’t think much of their national team.
As for national recognition, that is a fairy-tale. For a game that spends all of its time and effort on a small part of northern England, why would anyone anywhere else bother taking notice of Rugby League if Rugby League spends most if its time ignoring them!
Rugby League in Great Britain has a number of major issues that will not be cured by the World Cup. If anything I see the World Cup as a sideshow to distract peoples attention from the problems the game is facing. Once the worlds best players leave and head back home, what will be left behind? The same old problems and the same old administrators.
That will not change even if the World Cup is a success.
The 2013 World Cup isn’t a silver bullet for Rugby League in Great Britain. Its made of lead, and its going into the base of its skull.