RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood is predicting that Rugby League World Cup 2013 will make a positive impact on the whole sport and leave a lasting for every Rugby League club and player in the UK.
The 14-nation tournament will be formally launched at Old Trafford, Manchester, today and opens on Saturday with a spectacular opening ceremony beneath the closed roof of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium where an intriguing double bill featuring England v Australia and Wales v Italy will kick off proceedings.
A further 26 matches at 20 other venues ranging from Bristol to Workington, Wigan to Wembley and and Limerick to Old Trafford then follow over the next five weeks, a period which Wood believes will go down in history as a golden era for Rugby League.
“The tournament is already capturing the imagination of the public across the length and breadth of the country and everything points to us achieving our stated ambition of making this the greatest Rugby League World Cup of all time,” said Wood.
“Ticket sales have been excellent across all the games and we were delighted to announce last week that the England v Ireland fixture at Huddersfield is a sell-out. With limited availability at many other venues, I am sure it will not be the last stadium to post a ‘House Full’ sign in the weeks ahead.
“Even before a ball is kicked, the interest in the tournament over the last few weeks has been little short of phenomenal. Only last week the capacity on the official World Cup website (www.rlwc2013.com) had to be doubled to cope with an unprecedented number of hits whilst official kit suppliers ISC have been struggling to maintain supplies of the new England shirt following massive demand from fans.
“What has been particularly striking is the number of people purchasing tickets who are ‘new’ to the sport, with a fifth of all sales having been made to fans who have not previously bought tickets for major Rugby League events.
“Many of those people will fall in love with this great game when they witness at first hand the skill and athleticism that will be on show throughout the World Cup and will back next year to catch the action at Super League and Championships matches.
“More people will watch Rugby League World Cup 2013, both in person and on television, than at any other tournament in the sport’s 118-year history and the game will gain a significant lift in profile as a result.
“The unique appeal of international Rugby League has also attracted brands and sponsors who have previously never been involved in the sport.
“The quality and diversity of the tournament’s commercial portfolio is good news for domestic sponsorship and we fully expect that many of the companies and brands who have become involved in Rugby League for the first time through the World Cup will remain within the sport.
“I am confident that an important aspect of this World Cup’s legacy will be the success in delivering new sponsors to the wider game, to the benefit of all our clubs and players.
“The whole World Cup experience is guaranteed to leave a lasting and indelible legacy in the memory banks of all who attend the games or watch on television, as was the case with previous tournaments.
“Who can forget the heartbreak every England fan felt at losing the 1995 World Cup final to Australia? Or the thrill of seeing Wales push the Kangaroos all the way in 2000? Or Ireland’s magnificently surprising defeat of Samoa at Parramatta in 2008, when New Zealand also defied all expectations to win the final?
“Rugby League World Cups are where reputations are made, where off-field friendships are forged and on-field rivalries deepened; a time when the greatest exponents of the world’s greatest sport deliver spectacularly on the biggest stages.
“As we have seen in the last few days with the warm-up games, the international game has more depth than ever before and that bodes well for a successful and hugely enjoyable World Cup.
“This tournament has been a long time in the planning and we now stand just days away from an opening ceremony that will do justice to the largest multi-national event staged in the country since the 2012 Olympics.
“The London Games were a triumph which changed perceptions and changed the lives of everyone involved: I have no doubts that Rugby League World Cup 2013 will do exactly the same for our sport.
“After some thrilling Super League and Championship Grand Finals, the World Cup proves beyond any doubt that 2013 is a great year to be a Rugby League supporter.”
Tickets for the opening ceremony of RLWC2013 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, featuring England v Australia (2.30pm) and Wales v Italy (4.30pm) cost from just £20 for adults and £10 for concessions.
To purchase please visit www.rlwc2013.com/tickets or call the 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.
For Rugby League World Cup 2013 fixtures and all information on the tournament please visit www.rlwc2013.com