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France pulls out of hosting Rugby League World Cup

Featured image credit: Gérard Barrau/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size

France has pulled out of hosting the 2025 Rugby League World Cup due to funding-related issues.

The tournament’s board of directors met yesterday (Monday) to discuss the financial model for the event, which France was awarded hosting rights for back in January 2022.

The French Rugby League Federation (FFR XIII) said that, despite the work carried out by the organising committee, it would not be possible to provide a guarantee for the risk of loss for the event.

It came after the conditions initially set out to secure the economic viability of the event were not met, with additional time and funding provided to the organising committee by the French Government.

Troy Grant, chair of International Rugby League (IRL), said the decision was “very disappointing”.

He added: “There’s no secret as to how important the strengthening of France as a rugby league nation is to our global game and central to our strategic plans. 

“The Rugby League World Cup in France in 2025 was always an ambitious project given the unprecedented short lead-in time due to the pandemic, however it had the advantage of following and leveraging off the widely acknowledged RLWC2021 success. 

“Despite the historically short lead-in period, Luc Lacoste (president of the FFR XIII) and his LOC worked tirelessly and achieved so much in a short time.”

Grant continued: “The factors that impacted on the bid team’s ability to complete the early structure of the tournament, such as the economic crisis and, in particular, inflationary pressure on host town council budgets, undermined their ability to secure adequate securities for the event to satisfy the government’s strict conditional benchmarks, put forward from the beginning of the process, for the tournament to proceed. 

“The French Government, particularly the Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, supported the bid team financially and granted additional time to meet benchmarks given the interruptions and obstacles that were put in their way that were out of their control. 

“I respect the French Government’s decision amid the challenges they are facing but I can’t hide my disappointment that I conveyed clearly to them in person. Despite our focus having been on France, we will now accelerate our consideration of other contingency options.”

France had planned on staging the men’s, women’s, wheelchair and youth events in 40 locations across the country, with 90% of the games earmarked for “middle-sized towns” and only the semi-finals and final scheduled to take place in cities.

The IRL board will now consider other options for the tournament, with New Zealand already expressing an interest in replacing France as the host nation.

Greg Peters, chief executive of New Zealand Rugby League, said: “We are exploring the possibility of a Southern Hemisphere RLWC as an alternative to France 2025.

“We’re keen to work with the ARLC (Australian Rugby League Commission) to host the tournament in NZ and Australia and have started the conversations. Bringing the international tournament down under is an exciting proposition not only for the fans but our Indigenous and Pasifika communities.”

England hosted the most recent World Cup last year, with the event delayed by 12 months after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand in 2021. Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea co-hosted the 2017 tournament.