2021 Rugby League World Cup organisers predict record-breaking crowds

Rugby League World Cup chiefs anticipate historic English crowds on the back of this summer’s Women’s Euros success – with women’s rugby record of 16,000 expected when England host Brazil on November 1

  • Rugby League World Cup organisers are anticipating record-breaking crowds
  • Planners are hoping to build on the success of the Women’s Euro 2022
  • Officials also expect the women’s rugby crowd record to be broken in November 

Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup are anticipating record-breaking crowds across the board as they look to capitalise on the success of the Women’s Euro 2022.

Tournament chief executive Jon Dutton told a media briefing that he expects sell-outs for the men’s opening fixture between England and Samoa in Newcastle on October 15, both semi-finals and the finals day at Old Trafford on November 19.

Officials also expect to break the attendance record for women’s rugby in either code when England host Brazil in the opening game at Headingley and a crowd of over 5,000 is guaranteed for England’s opening wheelchair clash with Australia at the Copper Box in London.

The current women’s record of 15,862 was set for England’s rugby union Six Nations clash with Ireland in Leicester earlier this year and tournament revenue director Mick Hogan said: ‘It’s our intention to go higher than that at Headingley.’

Dutton says that would provide a ‘seminal’ moment for rugby league and produce an unexpected dividend from the postponement of the World Cup from 2021 due to the pandemic.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 Chief Executive Jon Dutton (left) predicts record crowds

‘I attended the opening game (of Euro 2022) at Old Trafford and felt the palpable excitement to be part of something special,’ he said.

‘It’s a real great precursor to what we have ahead and obviously the Commonwealth Games are about to start in the next few days.

‘From actually being at the games, it just feels like a festival, a celebration, I think all of this is incredibly positive.

‘We wouldn’t have had this in ’21. I said we were proud to be on our own in ’21 but, as it happens, we are delighted to be amongst other events in ’22 and seeing the positivity and the optimism and witnessing a real family audience.

‘I’ve been to watch Portugal versus Switzerland and thoroughly enjoyed it. You could see the audience getting behind a particular team, adopting a nation, and I think that’s similar to what we will experience.

‘I think there are many similarities with the women’s Euros.’

Dutton revealed that organisers refunded 19 per cent of ticket sales following the postponement last August but 48 per cent of fans indicated they planned to re-purchase.

He expects two-thirds of sales to be completed from August onwards and says almost three quarters of the advertising budget was kept back for the last six weeks of the tournament.

Organisers are looking to capitalise on the success of the Women’s Euro 2022 in England

Dutton also revealed that 15 commercial deals have been completed so far, a ‘massive over-achievement’ that will help offset the cost of the delay, and there is likely to be another cash boost when organisers finalise a deal for the overseas television rights.

‘We are at the end of the process in Australia and I’m very confident of making an announcement next month,’ said Dutton, who is also close to finalising domestic arrangements with the BBC.

‘We are very confident there will be more games on BBC 1 and BBC 2 than the FIFA World Cup – somewhere between 35 and 40 matches and every second of every minute live across the BBC’s other channels – which I think is a very significant moment for the sport,’ he said.

Australia are the reigning champions of the Rugby League World Cup after their 2017 triumph

Dutton confirmed that the tournament playing rules will include the use of an 18th player and the captain’s challenge, which are currently in use only in the NRL, but does not expect many other variations.

‘The differences will be few and far between, especially compared to 2013,’ he said.

Organisers are in the process of scrutinising eligibility after receiving 50-man squads from the 16 participating nations and finalising arrangements for the tournament welcome on October 15, which will comprise 15-20 minutes of music and dance.

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