Ukraine conflict played a factor in World Cup collapse

James Gordon

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has been partly blamed for the collapse of the 2025 World Cup, according to reports in France.

International rugby league is still reeling from the withdrawal of France from hosting the event in 2025, barely two years out from its schedule.

Promised government funding of up to €60m was believed to have been withdrawn, with organisers believed to not be willing to take the risk on the event making a loss.

In a report in L’Independant, French Federation chief Luc Lacoste said: “It is obviously a cruel disappointment. I am president of the Organizing Committee of this World Cup and president of the FFR XIII.

“If the disappointment is there, there will be a legacy. We have never talked so much about the XIII for two years and this announcement by Jean Castex.

“We won this candidacy, I remind you, and behind it, there were these difficulties linked to the Ukrainian crisis.

“It has clearly become very complicated. The state now demands that events be balanced and this World Cup was not.”

What was supposed to be a renaissance for French rugby league has turned in to its latest nightmare chapter. There is added frustration, and perhaps conspiracy, amongst treizistes given that France is due to host the Rugby (Union) World Cup later this year and the Paris Olympics in 2024.

What the future holds

There are now question marks over the future of Lacoste, who has confirmed he will submit for a vote of confidence.

Lacoste was elected unanimously in December 2020, and will now to go vote again to see if he can retain a mandate to govern the sport in France.

As for the World Cup, the International Rugby League federation will now have to act quickly to save the tournament.

New Zealand have put themselves forward as hosts, while there have been expressions of interest from Fiji, South Africa and Qatar, according to IRL chief Troy Grant.

Whether it is logistically possible to get the tournament arranged in time remains to be seen, and a delay to 2026 could be suggested.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine itself, the domestic rugby league season started last Saturday involving six sides.

A festival of matches took place in Lviv, with Kharkiv Legion defeating Lvivi Tigers 28-14 in the final of a 9s tournament that was split into two groups of three.

Before play commenced, Petro Adamyk, vice-president of the Ukrainian Federation of Rugby League addressed the participants and crowd, paying tribute to the nation’s soldiers, saying: “It is them we have to thank for the opportunity to play our favourite sport.

“Many rugby players are currently in the war zone.”

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