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CIRL backs Qatar’s World Cup bid

Saturday 20 May 2023 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Rugby Union, Sports

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CIRL backs Qatar’s World Cup bid
Cook Islands perform haka against Wales at the Rugby League World Cup in England last year. 23051980

Cook Islands Rugby League has welcomed Qatar’s bid to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France withdrew its hosting rights.

Qatar’s push to become a central hub on the global sporting landscape could see the country be an unlikely host of a Rugby League World Cup.

Qatar is one of four nations to express an interest in staging the 2025 tournament, rugby league’s governing body said on Wednesday.

“We have received expressions of interest from New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Qatar already,” said Troy Grant, chairman of the International Rugby League (IRL).

“We are yet to make any assessments in regarded to their viability, I’m just being honest about who has reached out. It gives me comfort that there is interest in our sport and our World Cup. How real or viable any or all of those options are, we’re yet to make any of those assessments.”

Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson yesterday said Qatar’s bid is “probably the best thing to happen to league, always struggling badly needing a financial injection”.

Qatar does not have a team or a world ranking in rugby league and has never played an international match.

The small Arabian Gulf country is coming off hosting the men’s football World Cup for the first time last year while football’s Asian Cup will be held there in January and the men’s basketball World Cup in 2027.

Doha will host the multi-sport Asian Games in 2030 and Qatar is widely expected to launch another campaign to host an Olympics in 2036.

Carlson said: “The Australia, Kiwi and PNG host did not reach its financial target in World Cup 2017, not sure with England host last year and I’m assuming it is better.

“Qatar is a very good option and will do much better than any hosts.”

Earlier, Carlson said he was “very disappointed” to hear France pull out of hosting the 2025 event.

“This will certainly put a lot of pressure on the IRL to come up with an alternative host for 2025. The logical option will be for Australia, NZ and PNG to host as they have the government funds to host international events such as this,” he said.

“The Pacific Island nations are being mentioned in the discussion but I can’t see it happening as there is a lot of money involved in hosting at least one game. Fiji does have the infrastructure in place to possibly host one game which will be good for Fiji.

“For us here in the Cook Islands, we need a major renovation to our stadium to an international standard to attract international games.”

An international Pacific Tri Series is been proposed between Cook Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea to be hosted by PNG in 2023, Fiji in 2024 and in the Cook Islands in 2026, Carlson revealed.

“I guess that will give us time to upgrade the stadium properly and attract more international games after.”

Meanwhile French organisers said they couldn’t fully meet financial guarantees for the risk of loss demanded by the French government and the IRL is scrambling to save the tournament, which could be delayed or scrapped completely.

The current format sees the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments take place at the same time and in the same host country, which — for Grant — is a “massive selling point.”

“So to abandon that strategy would be disappointing but we have to be practical in any decisions we make going forward,” he said. “It gets us to rethink how we do everything going forward. There’s a unique opportunity that this adversity presents, and I think we should take that opportunity.”

Grant said the IRL needed to move quickly.

“It will certainly have a big bearing on where the tournament is in 2025, if it proceeds," he said. “There is a potential option to move out of this cycle and create a new cycle, and that will also be a discussion point for the board in June and July. We are not wedded to anything, to be honest.”

Grant said the Qatari interest in the Rugby League World Cup comprises two approaches combining state and public funding.

Cook Islands men’s side will take on the winner of the 2023 Middle East Africa Cup for a spot in the 2025 Rugby League World Cup. Cook Islands Moana have automatically qualified for the event.

  • RK/Associated Press