International Rugby League (IRL) Chair, Troy Grant has outlined the positive future for international rugby league despite the decision to postpone the Rugby League World Cup to 2022.
“There is no doubt that the decision to postpone RLWC2021 for 12 months has taken its toll on us but, in fact, it has shone a very bright light on the importance of a strong, viable and commercially attractive multi-year calendar for the sport.
“Whilst a lot of focus has quite rightly been placed upon RLWC2021, which now moves to 2022, it gives the IRL Board the opportunity to look with confidence to the future. We have been working tirelessly on the creation of an international calendar featuring regional and global competitions on a multi-year basis and that will be ready to go to market before the end of this year. There are now some adjustments required to cater for the re-schedule and qualification for RLWC2025, however, we are in the midst of making those changes and they will be incorporated.
“A fully integrated, well thought out and resourced international programme will be attractive to everyone including our major professional leagues. The international calendar will be open to all and will give opportunities for players around the world. As we have more nations actively playing the game, there are more opportunities for more players from more countries. Players don’t just arrive in elite player pathways. They come through volunteer led programmes, often in Australia and England, however, there are growing numbers of volunteer programmes all around the world getting people involved in playing rugby league. The difference in the volunteer programmes bringing these kids on is relatively small and players in Africa, South America, Europe or wherever can go on to have amazing careers in rugby league and inspire even more players. I expect the international calendar to be ready in weeks and that will be a game-changer with everyone on-board.
“Discussions with Luc Lacoste and the organising group for RLWC2025 in France continue positively. Several very astute people told me from the start that we need to re-invigorate France as a priority and I couldn’t agree more. Luc has put together a hugely talented group to work with the French government to stage a wonderful world cup in France and we are on track to report the outcomes within the next few months.
“I thank our fans around the world for their support. Without fans we have no game. Our shared passion for rugby league is both a curse and a blessing. Sometimes, like now, we are all tested, and we can tear into each other, however, now is the time for unity and I ask for some patience so that we can finally realise the full potential of our brilliant sport.
“To conclude, I am certain that the big-ticket items are now in place, and they will ensure a prosperous future for international rugby league. International Rugby League has never been stronger even though it may not feel like that today.
“There are more competitive international teams, a large and growing membership around the world, IRL is acting as an independent voice for the membership, and we are about to go to market with a multi-year, multi-level and integrated calendar for the whole sport.
“We are in advanced talks with France for the next world cup and we have the prospect of the Olympics in one of our largest marketplaces in 2032. There has never been a more optimistic time for our sport.”