The Rugby League World Cup will be postponed by a year and played in 2022.
Following the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand, a series of emergency meetings have taken place between organisers and government officials, with a decision now understood to have been reached as key stakeholders are set to be informed.
Chief executive Jon Dutton confirmed last week that there was a ’50/50′ chance of the tournament taking place as planned and, following further talks over the weekend, a decision is understood to have been reached to delay the tournament which will allow all qualified nations to participate next year in England.
An official announcement is expected in the next 48 hours.
Newcastle is due to host England’s opening fixture of the tournament in October, plus three more matches at Kingston Park, with hopes that the event could give local businesses a much-needed £15m boost. That hope is now gone, with the council expected to be told this week of the delay to the tournament which has been years in the planning.
The decision is understood to have been made based on the impact to broadcast revenue along with a series of other logistical and financial reasons. The reluctance from NRL clubs to have their players attend was another factor, despite over 75% of players initially saying they had no concern about participating in a survey conducted by RLWC.
But a joint statement from NRL clubs last week put further pressure on both players and organisers.
“We all want to see a strong, safe and successful Rugby League World Cup,” Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner said.
“It’s clear that cannot be achieved in 2021, but we are in strong support for the tournament to be held in 2022. We want the players to come home healthy.”
Dutton confirmed a further player survey would take place over the weekend, which would play a major role in the decision.
Organisers will now have to rearrange all dates with the various venues.
As a result of the decision, it’s now likely that there will be calls to extend the Super League season. The competition has had its fixture schedule decimated by Covid-19 cancellations, with a number of games now set to be unplayed.
However, Hull FC owner Adam Pearson has already said the competition should extend the season if the World Cup was called off. Old Trafford, which hosts Super League’s Grand Final, was set to stage the World Cup Final on Saturday November 27th, seven weeks after the domestic season was due to finish.
However, there are already concerns that extending the season would only push back further challenges the year after, with another World Cup to consider.