Tournament director responds to criticism of World Cup qualifier in Spain

James Gordon

Rugby League European Federation General Manager Chris Thair has responded to criticisms of the recent 2021 World Cup qualifier between Spain and Ireland in Valencia.

Ireland internationals Tyrone McCarthy and Oliver Roberts slammed the organisation of the game in this week’s trade press, with Roberts calling it “shambolic and unsafe” and that they had to walk 25 minutes to the game, as well as fearing for their safety.

Thair, who is the tournament director of the final European qualifiers for the World Cup, has spoken to both players directly.

He said: “No official complaint has been made by Rugby League Ireland and no case found to start any disciplinary proceedings. The responsibility to deliver a good match day experience rests with the home federation. The standards that must be fulfilled are clearly mapped out in our regulations and tournament manual.

“The venue met all the minimum requirements and the playing surface was passed fit to play by the referee and experienced match commissioner. Any potential issues raised at Friday’s captain’s run were all rectified before the game.”

The match was originally scheduled to take place at Matias Prats Football Stadium in Torredonjimeno, however – in part due to the severe droughts over the summer in Spain – the fixture had to be moved at relatively short notice to Xativa. The facility is the home of a rugby league club in Spain.

It comes as organisers in Valencia look to attract a high-profile pre-season friendly between St Helens and Salford, with their local side, the Hurracanes, set to take on Championship side Featherstone as part of a double-header.

Spain head coach Darren Fisher responded to the allegations: “We respect feedback, positive or negative, for future reference. Whilst we can defend all of our actions, we will endeavour to take on board better communication and more committed liaisons with our visitors.

“Having to change the venue at short notice, although it fitted all necessary requirements, was the chief cause of some of the disquiet.

“I wish Ireland the best of luck for their next game, I’m sure a place in the full World Cup beckons for them in 2021.”

In response to Thair’s comments, Roberts said he wished to move on and considered the matter resolved.