Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) chairman Nigel Wood believes that the game’s international governing body is the best it has ever been.
He also acknowledges, however, that there is still plenty of challenging work to be done if rugby league is to have a viable and sustainable economic future.
“I think the RLIF is improving and actually far better than it has ever been,” he told Forty-20 editor Phil Caplan, in an extensive interview on the RLIF website.
“But in truth, it is still not where it ought to be or where the sport needs it to be.
“However we are making some good progress in key areas and there is some outstanding examples of good practice in various geographical regions.
“Whatever has been achieved has been done with limited resources, using substantially voluntary efforts by various people from various countries.
“We won’t really kick on until the organisation is properly resourced up with an executive which can focus on the functions of a bona fide World Governing Body 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I am very optimistic of some significant progress in the next few months.”
Wood is certain that a more developed and organised international schedule will lead to a wider gobal profile for the sport.
“However if we can build the right international calendar the international game can become even more attractive and compelling to broadcasters and the widest possible public market, while giving the players an even greater experience,” he added.
“The RLIF will grow towards independence while still recognising that the two main stakeholders, the RFL and ARLC will have to support the organisation until it matures fully.
“It the long term the sky is the limit for this sport, it is the most attractive handling sport in the world, and the simplest and safest.
“North America, Eastern Europe and other geographical regions and markets are tantalisingly close to be in a position to be developed into major players in the sport, to go with the historic strongholds.”
Wood also hinted that there may well be more big international tournaments in the years between World Cups.
“One of the most fundamental decision is whether the sport needs a second world event within the four World Cup year cycle,” he said.
“Other sports all have either annual or bi-annual international tournaments as a pinnacle for their international members and it I something rugby league needs to give careful consideration.
However we can’t undermine the primacy of the World Cups given we are still in the process of rebuilding the credibility and financial performance of these.
“What we are really seeking is a sensible, clear and logical structure of international competition that pitches like against like, that provides a route map for the numerous emerging nations new to the sport, while not placing unnecessary or unfair demands on the elite players.
“In the medium term the clear challenge is to grow more legitimate contenders; nations ranked 4 to 8 to improve the commercial prospects for the sport.”