Bold World Cup plans aim to leave tangible legacy

It was hard not to be impressed by the 2021 World Cup event that included the re-launch of its trophy back to its original state.

The cockerel, a symbol of the French Federation and national team, had been absent from the trophy since it went missing in the 1960s, and the event also told the story of how the trophy went missing from Bradford in 1970, only to be discovered some 20 years later in a ditch in the city.

For the second time in eight years, the World Cup will be held on these shores, although this time solely in England, rather than games in France, Ireland and Wales as was the case in 2013.

Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton spoke passionately about the importance of the Northern Powerhouse, which has helped to persuade the government to provide £25m in funding for the World Cup, and revealed that more than 80% of the games will be held in the north.

London will host games, and there will be a move towards northern cities, rather than towns, for games though there will be plenty of opportunities to host teams, training, women and wheelchair games.

Dutton said: “We staged a World Cup here in 2013 which was magical, 458,000 spectators attended that tournament.

“We’ve been going to government and accessed a huge amount of funding and everything we’ve done so far we have to be

ambitious and we have to fill venues and we have to work with the loyal rugby league community, the people that attended the game in Hull and Liverpool but we have to go beyond that and that is our single biggest challenge.

“This has to be a mega sporting event that transcends rugby league and it’s as simple as that.

“We want to surprise people, we want to delight people and people will really see the scale of our ambition. We need the rugby league community to get behind our tournament and be proud of it.”

A total of 28 towns and cities have bid to be hosts, and that list will be whittled down in January, with an announcement to be around the “1000 days to go” date of January 27.

Referencing the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Dutton expressed his eagerness to play midweek games, something which the 2017 Rugby League World Cup lacked, but that had worked so well at the 2013 edition, notably at Rochdale.

Despite the success of the last tournament here, the failure to build a noticeable legacy was a disappointment.

Dutton added: “We were incredibly proud of what we delivered in 2013. We were a really small team, we ran it on a shoe string budget, it came the year after the Olympics and we were focused on delivering the tournament and filling the venues.

“This time we were clear, we went to the government and said we didn’t just want funding for the tournament. We want you to fund our legacy programme.

“We announced that £10m has been made available to community rugby league clubs. It is split in two two pots. One is a £1m pot that any community rugby league club should be able to access, and that might be for kit, equipment, set up a under 7s team or it might be a small modification to a facility.

“The bigger pot is for transformation. I’d like to deliver about 50 projects so when we all gather back at the end of the tournament and you say what’s the legacy, it’s that new club house, it’s that new artificial pitch.”

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