After the Tomahawks ‘shocked the world’ at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, the US have shocked the rugby league community again by launching an unprecedented bid to host rugby league’s premier event on American soil.
Rugby League in the United States has had plenty of issues over the past decade, such as two separate domestic competitions, split national teams and issues with the sports main international governing body. That was until the Tomahawks performance in the 2013 RLWC.
Since then, the two competitions have merged into one being the USARL, which consists of 14 clubs contesting for the championship.
There is also now just one representative team for the nation, the US Hawks. These minor but positive changes have laid a platform for the sport to grow, which has now evolved into this audacious bid to host rugby league’s biggest tournament.
Moore Sports International, a leading sports marketing and event management company, is the organisation behind the United States’ bid of hosting the 2021 tournament. The organisation is using the 2013 performance of the national team and the rising popularity of the rugby codes locally and globally as a pedestal to successfully bid for the hosting rights of the prestigious event.
The bid was officially submitted to the RLIF last week, with plans to hold the 16th edition of the Rugby League World Cup across multiple US cities during a six week tournament in 2021.
After the much maligned 2000 edition of the World Cup, each RLWC held since has produced not only more memorable on-field action, but has also been commercially a greater success than the previous event. Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are set to continue that trend as co-hosts of the 2017 edition in October and November next year.
The RLIF has certainly placed a lot of emphasis on expanding the game since the success of the 2013 tournament which saw 500,000 attend matches throughout the UK and France, including a record crowd for the final at Old Trafford.
The CEO of the RLIF – David Collier, has declared the governing body’s commitment to growing rugby league and the ambitious plans for it to be recognised as one of the world’s leading sports. The US bid would certainly provide belief that greater opportunities lie ahead for the sport.
If the US were successful in their bid and gained hosting rights for the 2021 World Cup, it would be the first time in the sport’s history that the RLWC would be hosted outside of the traditional rugby league playing nations in continental Europe and Australasia.
The bid is hoping to capitalise on the average American sports fans’ hunger for ‘Gladiatorial’ sports which is a description that would certainly be appropriate for rugby league, allowing the RLIF a perfect springboard and opportunity to showcase the sport to the US market. Rugby league’s speed, physicality, excitement and easily understandable nature would ensure it is attractive to the sports-mad nation.
The US bid will include a Women’s tournament that is set to run concurrently and be competed between eight qualifying teams. There is also a commitment from the bid team that the Men’s event would see all 32 matches of the 2021 rugby league World Cup being played in NFL or MLS stadiums across major US cities/markets between the months of October and November.
The RLIF are set to announce the host nation for the 2021 World Cup later this year in November. Giving the US hosting rights to the World Cup would certainly be a risk and place the sport outside its comfort zone however it could also provide the game with the biggest shot in the arm it has ever received.
Ensuring the event is a commercial success has the be the number one priority for the sport but as a rugby league fan, I can’t help but get caught up with the potential idea of seeing the RLWC being played in front of sell-out crowds within major stadiums across the US. Whether that will be the case is difficult to foresee but Moore Sports International is certainly talking the talk.
Australia versus England at MetLife Stadium? I would certainly be down for that!