Brian Carney dishes out international rugby league reality check after World Cup fiasco

James Gordon
Brian Carney

Former Great Britain international Brian Carney has slammed the organisation of international rugby league amidst the embarrassment of France’s withdrawal from hosting the 2025 World Cup.

Carney criticised the awarding of the World Cup to America and the lack of investigation in to its failure, and said it was ‘toe-curling’ to listen to discussions about the bombshell dropped by France this week.

North America was awarded the rights to the 2025 World Cup back in 2016, but by 2018 it had been scrapped due to financial concerns in light of the Denver test between England and New Zealand.

France were awarded the rights to the tournament in January 2022 and launched an ambitious campaign to run four tournaments – the men’s, women’s, wheelchair and youth – at the same time.

But after organisers felt they couldn’t make the required guarantees to the French government over the financial risk, the decision was made to pull out from hosting.

Carney told TalkSport: “When you think about a sport handing a World Cup to American with the flimsiest of foundations. And then it goes to France and they decline to go ahead with the tournament. Unfortunately, it’s the pulling back of the curtain on the international rugby league wizard of Oz.

“Nowhere else in the world is it financially secure. Certainly not in Ireland, in Wales, in Jamaica, in Greece, in Serbia, in Brazil; all these places that every four years we adopt this collective amnesia and say ‘yeah, all is good, we’ve got an international game in Greece, in Serbia, in Jamaica, in Ireland, we’ll put a World Cup on.

“Unfortunately, the reality is so far removed from that, that when the rubber hits the road and the French organising committee are asked to meet some stipulations put forward by the government of France after a three month extension, they’re not able to do it.

“The sport unfortunately isn’t popular enough to attract major commercial sponsorships or commitments from governments.

“We were very lucky with the last World Cup over here, back in 2015 with northern powerhouse money that morphed into the levelling up fund, that the government handed over £25m of taxpayer money that made the tournament in this country, the birthplace of rugby league, possible.

“Were it not for taxpayer money the competition would not have gone ahead and would not have been in any way viable.

“There’s never been any investigation or any report into this fiasco of giving it to the USA. Then we go on to France and now again we’ll just move on.

“We’ll just move on maybe to New Zealand, maybe Australia will have it; financially, they’re the only two that have the power and resources to put this on.

“There is a bit of an international power struggle. This will not be an opportunity that the Australian Rugby League Commission will miss up on taking and maximising. They want to be seen as the predominant governing body in the world rugby league, and this plays in to their hands.”

The TalkSport presenters asked why rugby league isn’t massively more popular and questioned why the sport can’t get its ducks in a row, saying the news was embarrassing for the support.

But they added that they hoped rugby league could get it sorted and the World Cup goes ahead and is a great success, because it’s a ‘great watch’.

More on the 2025 World Cup

The four countries to have shown interest in hosting the 2025 World Cup

Sport still has a bright future in France, insists European Rugby League chief

What next for the World Cup after the cancellation of France 2025

Sadness and anger as Government slammed for treatment of rugby league