Australian clubs are entirely behind the 2021 World Cup, according to their organisers, although chief executive John Dutton admits he is frustrated with their inability so far to secure an overseas TV deal.
Dutton, who is 14 days into his promotional visit to Down Under, said in a media briefing that he was encouraged by the success of his three-pronged mission to “build relationships, raise awareness in Australia and get people excited”.
It was opposition from NFL clubs in the wake of safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic that led to the postponement of last fall’s World Cup, but organizers say they are now fully on board.
Among the 50 meetings planned, Dutton has so far met with 11 of the NRL’s 16 clubs as well as 12 competing nations and International Rugby League CEO Troy Grant has praised the impact he’s had.
“John Dutton’s presence here over the past 14 days and the involvement of NRL clubs and important stakeholders has probably overwhelmed me,” Grant said.
“It is the standard of preparedness that has impressed all the clubs and they are now asking how they can contribute.
“The old problem we’ve had for a long time around laying off players and protecting the club is behind us.
“I think this is probably less selfish than they were in terms of choosing to make sure that the international game provides the best players and makes them available to restart the game.
“We have had very difficult years affected by the epidemic and before that some very poor management arrangements and missed opportunities.
“But we used that time to fix the house and start renovating the International Rugby League.”
Australia coach Mal Minenga, who will be in St Helen next Thursday to help garner support for the tournament, has made it clear that he will not pressure players to represent the kangaroos ahead of the Pacific nations, which would enable eg Penrith W. The face of New South Wales, Yarumi Loai will play with Samoa.
This, in turn, would improve Matt Parish’s chances of Samoa simulating Tonga providing real competition for the Big Three in Australia, New Zealand and England.
Dutton said: “Jason Taumalulu and David Vivita sparked the championship in 2017 when they chose to play for Tonga, and speaking to the players here, the strength of the players’ feeling willing to represent their home country is unprecedented.
“I met Mal, who is an international, and the same can be said of (Kiwi coach) Michael Maguire.
“We know the work Christian (Wolf) is doing with Tonga, and speaking to Matt Parish yesterday, he knows he has more players to join his very strong squad.”
One of Dutton’s tasks is to negotiate a deal for the overseas TV rights, and despite a four-month absence from the October 15 opener, he remains confident he can achieve his goal.
“We’re not there yet but there’s no shortage of positivity,” Dutton said, who insists that different time zones aren’t a stumbling block.
“We don’t want to underestimate what we think is amazing content. We have some offers, we just need to keep talking to get our best deal.
“I am frustrated that it took longer than we had hoped, but we are really keen that by doing the best trade deal we can look at free distribution in other regions, such as South America and West Africa.
“We want the tournament to reach as many people as possible around the world.
“If it takes a little longer, I’d rather get the best deal than rush into something we might regret later.”
Dutton says regulators have considered other options if they fail to strike a deal with a radio station.
“We have more than one plan, like we’ve worked through the pandemic,” he said.
“We prefer working with the family of NRL broadcasters. But we’ve investigated directly with the consumer and talked to other broadcast partners. Everything is on the table.”
Meanwhile, Grant says he is working on the international calendar after the World Cup, where Shaun Wayne hopes to take England on tour at the end of the 2023 domestic season, and has a meeting planned with IMG, which is set to overhaul the game in the UK as part of a 12-year deal. year with rugby league football.