Rugby League World Cup organisers are hoping to emulate the success of the Women’s Euro 2022 by hosting record-breaking crowds this autumn.
Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton says they are expecting sell-outs for the men’s opening fixture between England and Samoa in Newcastle on October 15 as well as both semi-finals and the finals day at Old Trafford on November 19.
Officials also expect to break the attendance record for women’s rugby in either code when England host Brazil in the opening game at Headingley and a crowd of over 5,000 is guaranteed for England’s opening wheelchair clash with Australia at the Copper Box in London.
The current women’s record of 15,862 was set for England’s rugby union Six Nations clash with Ireland in Leicester earlier this year and tournament revenue director Mick Hogan said: “It’s our intention to go higher than that at Headingley.”
Dutton wants World Cup to follow in footsteps of Women’s Euros
Dutton says that would provide a “seminal” moment for rugby league and produce an unexpected dividend from the postponement of the World Cup from 2021 due to the pandemic.
“I attended the opening game (of Euro 2022) at Old Trafford and felt the palpable excitement to be part of something special,” he said.
“It’s a real great precursor to what we have ahead; and obviously the Commonwealth Games are about to start in the next few days.
“From actually being at the games, it just feels like a festival, a celebration. I think all of this is incredibly positive.
“We wouldn’t have had this in ’21. I said we were proud to be on our own in ’21 but, as it happens, we are delighted to be amongst other events in ’22 and seeing the positivity and the optimism and witnessing a real family audience.
“I’ve been to watch Portugal versus Switzerland and thoroughly enjoyed it. You could see the audience getting behind a particular team, adopting a nation. I think that’s similar to what we will experience.
“I think there are many similarities with the women’s Euros.”
World Cup to have captain’s challenge
Dutton revealed that organisers refunded 19% of ticket sales following the postponement last August. However, 48% of fans indicated they planned to re-purchase.
He expects two-thirds of sales to be completed from August onwards. He says almost threequarters of the advertising budget was kept back for the last six weeks of the tournament.
Dutton confirmed that the tournament playing rules will include the use of an 18th player and the captain’s challenge. The two are currently in use only in the NRL, but he does not expect many other variations.
Organisers are in the process of scrutinising eligibility after receiving 50-man squads from the 16 participating nations. They are finalising arrangements for the tournament welcome on October 15, which will comprise 15-20 minutes of music and dance.