Sadness and anger as Government slammed for treatment of rugby league

James Gordon
Rugby League World Cup 2025 International Rugby League

Supporters of French rugby league have hit out at another dark day for ‘Rugby XIII’ across the Channel.

For much of its existence, rugby league has had to put up with persecution in some form, particularly in France which still carries the impact of its treatment by the Vichy Government during the Second World War.

The modern day French Government’s justification for withdrawing needed funding to enable the 2025 World Cup to go ahead has been criticised.

Some have read it as ‘The Forbidden Game Mark II’, a nod to the outstanding book written by Mike Rylance detailing the journey of rugby league in France and the previous banning of it.

The truth is probably one of economics, rather than that of persecution, but you can forgive those who think otherwise given what’s happened before.

The French Government reportedly wanted a financial guarantee to cover the risk of losses, something that the France 2025 organisers didn’t feel was viable.

A statement read: “This difficult decision was taken so as not to threaten the robustness of the major international sporting event models that France now wishes to promote.

“In addition, the State will reinforce the support it provides to the XIII rugby development plan supported by the Federation, to ensure that this sport has a better visibility and to make it shine again in France.”

The 2025 World Cup was meant to be that opportunity, which rugby league in France has now been denied.

The Rugby (Union) World Cup will take place there later this year, before the Olympics head to Paris in 2024.

‘Embarrassing and disappointing’

French Federation president Luc Lacoste dreamed of bringing the biggest ever World Cup to France, with the ambitious plan to stage four tournaments side-by-side – adding a junior event to the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments that were successfully showcased in England last year.

But perhaps reality has caught up with his dreams, and now French rugby league has to deal with the fall out, infighting, factions and the typical politics associated with the sport.

Catalan Media journalist Steve Brady tweeted: “I simply cannot digest the implication of the words in paragraph four. The (Government) of France are ASHAMED of French Rugby League and do not want association with other sporting events in the country.”

Canadian rugby league supporter Nicholas Mew: “That’s how I’m reading it too.  ‘We don’t want to bring other sports events down by associating them with rugby league.’  Followed by vague claims of support for rugby league’s future growth to get them up to an international standard.”

Jamie: “The 10 million euros they cut is literally a drop in the ocean relative to the Olympics and Union. It’s honestly hilarious trying to claim that hosting a RLWC would “threaten the robustness” of those events. They just don’t want it.”

Daniel Watson Hayes: “Terrible decision. This hurts the growth and prosperity of rugby league in France. To renege on the initial decision is both embarrassing and disappointing for the French people, travellers which would’ve contribute to the French economy and the participants across all formats.”

Chris P: “So the people in power in France priority is to stage the Rugby Union World Cup rather than the Rugby League World Cup… wow – you would never have saw that coming…… they really do hate RL don’t they.”

Eddy Wam: “Given how this sport is promoted in L’Equipe, no wonder sponsors are afraid of no return on investment”

MORE: Confirmed: France will not host 2025 Rugby League World Cup