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

James Gordon

European Rugby League chair Dean Andrew OBE has expressed his disappointment at the cancellation of the 2025 World Cup in France, but believes the sport there still has a bright future.

Much was hoped for the tournament in France, which would have been the first time they had held it as a stand alone country since 1972.

Buoyed by the progress of Toulouse in recent years and the continued success of Catalans, there was hope it could propel a positive future for professional rugby league in France, as well as reaching in to new commercial markets.

But a change in stance from the French Government, who wanted assurances that risk of loss could be covered, forced organisers to withdraw from hosting.

It remains unclear whether French Federation president Luc Lacoste will remain in post following this significant blow to his plans and ambitions.

Lacoste has gained much support from peers in rugby league administration, though some clubs in France are understood to be non-plussed by his Parisian centric approach.

In a statement issued by the ERL, Andrew said: “While the withdrawal of French government support for the Rugby League World Cup 2025 is understandable, it still comes as a huge disappointment.

“French Rugby League is entering a new era under the dynamic leadership of its president Luc Lacoste and RLWC2025 was a significant milestone in that process.

I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work that Luc and his World Cup team have invested in trying to bring the project to fruition under the most difficult of economic circumstances. The plans for the tournament were excellent, but against the global financial climate securing the necessary support proved impossible.

The French Rugby League Federation play an incredibly important role in European rugby league and having seen their future plans I hope that their ambitions and desire to continue to grow and develop the sport in France are not dampened by this set back, and we look forward to continuing to support them.”

 The International Rugby League board meets tomorrow (Wednesday) to further appraise the situation, with the board of European Rugby League convening on Friday. Dialogue between the two organisations will take place during this week with regards to the planned WC qualifying events scheduled to start later this year, with more information to follow.

According to the last ERL Annual Report, there are more than 7,000 registered rugby league participants in France, second only to England in the northern hemisphere.

The decision for France to host the 2025 World Cup was described as a ‘momentous appointment’ by then interim chair of ERL  Graeme Thompson.

Lacoste, who has been French federation president since December 2020, is an ERL representative on the International Rugby League board.

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