Qatar puts bids in to host 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France withdrawal


RUGBY league’s World Cup may follow football’s – by heading to Qatar.

The Arab powerhouse has expressed an interest in hosting the 2025 tournament after France pulled out.

Qatar has said it wants to host the 2025 Rugby League World CupSWPIX.COM

Last year saw FIFA’s tournament take place immediately after England’s successful stint, which saw the hosts win the wheelchair version.

Now more than one Qatari party – both state and private – has approached International Rugby League with a view to stepping in.

South Africa and Fiji, whose Government is keen, also want to host it while SunSport revealed New Zealand hope to have their package together within weeks, with a July meeting key to its destination.

And chairman Troy Grant and his board will whittle down the options before coming to a decision – with conditions and human rights, particularly the attitude towards women – part of the thinking.

He said: “How real they are, we’re yet to make those assessments.

“My personal view of the attractiveness would be in Qatar’s financial capability to meet the costs of a tournament of our size and scale.

“We’ve done no due diligence to give expressions of interest due course of credit yet but their stadia are first class, that’s been proven with the FIFA World Cup having been held there successfully.

“The close proximity of stadia and the less travel required, even compared to the World Cup in England, would be massively advantageous regarding costs.

“But equally, the proper due diligence on human rights is a consideration, particularly because women in rugby league is so important to our code.

“We’d have to be satisfied there would be no discrimination and our ability to have a women’s World Cup would be central in addition to the wheelchair and physical disability opportunities.

“Our World Cup would be earlier in the year than football’s, so seasonal conditions would be tough I’d imagine. That’s another factor to consider as our international window is October-November.

“We’re not wedded to anything but we’re the only sport that has ever conducted three World Cups at one time. It stood us alone, so it’s a massive selling point. It drew record commercial investment.

Qatar has just hosted football’s World CupAP

“To abandon that strategy would be disappointing. That’s critical to our future.

“The women’s game is on a growth trajectory of astronomical proportions. To not take advantage of what we created at the last World Cup would be a massive setback.”

France’s decision came after funding targets were not met, but nothing was ever signed.

Contracts were meant to be exchanged in December but after an extension until March 31, changes in the Paris administration and the rising cost of the Olympics in a financial crisis meant the end, confirmed at a meeting on Friday.

Now while it is hoped the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments can be saved, Grant admitted skipping it until 2029 is an option.

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And the way the international game is run – France was not announced until last January after North America fell through – must change.

New Zealand is also willing to rescue the 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France withdrew from hostingSWPIX.COM

He added: “We always held out hope it would happen until the meeting the other day, but it was evident at the beginning what the outcome was to be.

“Contracts were to occur in December but as a couple of key milestones hadn’t happened and there’d been a change of Government, we never got a chance to do that.

“There was never a formal withdrawal in the sense France wouldn’t meet their one-third commitment to the budget but the economic crisis pushed out votes to secure a commitment of funds from the localities.

“When I came on board in January 2020, I was pretty shocked to learn we had no host identified for 2025. I accept we’re a passenger and the IRL, quite frankly, should never have been placed in the position where we were trying to identify a host.

“That should’ve been secured well before 2020.”

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