World Cup organizers expect record crowds

Photo: Paul Currie / SWpix

Organizers of the Rugby League World Cup hope to emulate the success of the 2022 FIFA Women’s European Championship by hosting record-breaking crowds this fall.

Championship chief executive John Dutton said they expect big sell-offs for the men’s opening match between England and Samoa in Newcastle on 15 October, as well as the semi-finals and finals day at Old Trafford on 19 November.

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

The current women’s record of 15,862 for England’s six-match rugby union match with Ireland was set at Leicester earlier this year, and tournament revenue director Mick Hogan said: “We intend to go even higher at Headingley.”

Dutton wants the World Cup to follow in the footsteps of the European Women’s Championship

Dutton says that would provide a “keystone” moment for rugby league and would cash in on the windfall of the World Cup being postponed from 2021 due to the pandemic.

“I attended the opening match (Euro 2022) at Old Trafford and felt the tangible excitement of being part of something special,” he said.

“It’s a real great introduction to what’s ahead; it’s clear that the Commonwealth Games are about to begin in the next few days.

“From being at the Games, it feels like a festival, a celebration. I think it’s all incredibly positive.

“We didn’t have this in ’21. I said we’re proud to be alone in ’21 but, as it happens, we’re happy to be among the others in ’22 and see the positivity and optimism and witness a real family audience.

“I was watching the Portugal-Switzerland match and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can see the audience standing behind a certain team, adopting a country. I think this is similar to what we are going to experience.

“I think there are many similarities with the women’s euro.”

Captain Challenge World Cup

Dutton revealed that organizers recovered 19% of ticket sales after delays last August. However, 48% of fans indicated that they plan to repurchase.

Two-thirds of sales are expected to be completed from August onwards. He says nearly three-quarters of the advertising budget has been kept in the past six weeks of the tournament.

Dutton confirmed that the rules of play for the tournament would include the use of the 18th player and the Captain’s challenge. Only the two are used in NRL, but he doesn’t expect many other differences.

Organizers are in the process of vetting eligibility after receiving teams of 50 players from 16 participating countries. They are finalizing arrangements to welcome the tournament on October 15, which will include 15-20 minutes of music and dancing.

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