With the Olympics fast approaching, it’s easy to focus on what is taking place in London next year and how the North West will benefit from the legacy that it leaves. In what has been heralded as a golden decade of sport, there has been little attention paid to the first big international tournament taking place after the 2012 Games – the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
With the majority of World Cup games taking place in the North of England, the tournament will give people from all over the world the opportunity to view top-flight sport outside London and the chance to experience the history and culture we have to offer. In doing so, it would provide much-needed income to the region.
But the North West might lose out on both games and funding; as the regional government agency that had agreed to provide funding to the tournament, the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA), is being wound-down and it is looking to break agreements made with the tournament organiser the Rugby Football League (RFL). This has led to questions being asked in Parliament to ensure the agreed funding is in place and the UK and the North of England isn’t embarrassed by having to pull out of delivering the tournament.
I am backing Wigan’s bid to be a host town for the World Cup and have written to the NWDA this week calling on them to honour their committment to the RFL.
I don’t believe they’ve considered the wider impact this will have on the region. I know the Sports Industry Research Centre at Sheffield University calculated that the total economic activity that will be generated by the World Cup is in excess of £24m in the North West alone. When you think about how much rugby league means to Wigan and the the North West, it would be ridiculous if we were unable to have our fair share of games and lose out on that vital financial income.
The decision resides squarely with the NWDA and I am disappointed that they tried to renege on signed contracts. I appreciate that as the Regional Development Agencies are being wound up that there are hard choices to make. But I would stress to anyone involved in the decision at the NWDA on the World Cup, that this is one way they can leave a lasting legacy in the region they have been supporting for many years.