International chief admits frustration over calendar but points to positives

James Gordon

Photo by Mark Cosgrove/News Images

International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant has expressed his frustration at the lack of progress with the international calendar.

The recent publication of the IRL’s Annual Report for 2022 detailed the impact of the World Cup, though we await the opportunity for its legacy to be explored.

England’s recent announcement of an autumn test series against Tonga was welcome, but we all still wait with baited breath for the long overdue, promised international calendar that Grant himself has set deadlines for that have passed.

Writing in the IRL report, Grant said: “Frustratingly, the long-awaited international calendar has not progressed due to circumstances out of the IRL’s control but that does not restrict confederations or nations organising international matches until the calendar can be finalised.

“There were 39 sanctioned senior international matches in 2022 outside the World Cup.

“As we look ahead to 2023 and beyond, there are so many great opportunities in international rugby league for the game to capitalise on.”

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The financial impact of the World Cup on the IRL will not be known until next year’s reports, as the finances only account for up to December 2021.

The frustration around the international calendar was seemingly echoed by IRL secretary general, Danny Kazandjian, who said confirmation of the calendar was critical to the sport’s success.

Kazandjian said: “IRL is looking forward to a period of stability, a period in which we must confirm a multi-year calendar that enables us to grow the sport’s economy through exploitation of the international game.

“Stability will not mean respite, far from it. Supporting our members to become more productive, augmenting our technical education output, implementing the calendar and strategy are all massive projects, and we can already see the next World Cup on the horizon.”

IRL is still essentially made up of two separate companies – Australian-based Rugby League International Federation Limited, the historic business of the governing body, and the recently established, UK-based International Rugby League Limited.

IRL Ltd reported a trading loss of £642,000 in 2021, with a pre-tax deficit of A$211k in the Australian accounts. An amount of A$2.7m had been advanced to the UK company. The Australian company shows assets of A$3.1m, while the UK company shows a negative balance in the profit and loss account of £3m.

A rights fee was paid by the 2021 World Cup to the IRL, which states that the company has a ‘healthy, positive balance sheet going forward’ following the tournaments.

It is not known exactly what the desired international calendar looks like, with many false dawns over the past decade.

What is for sure is that there will be a World Cup in 2025, and in four-year cycles after that.

The European Rugby League federation appears to be in the most advanced state in terms of the international game currently, with their multi-tier European Championships already organised for the end of the year.

There will no doubt be some controversy over that though, with England due to appear at the same time as their autumn test series against Tonga.

You can view the 2022 IRL annual report here.