Hosting the Rugby League World Cup could bring a boost to Sheffield’s economy and deliver a ‘shot in the arm’ for Sheffield Eagles who begin their second season back in the city this weekend.
That was the message from Sheffield Council’s major events manager Gary Clifton as the city celebrates being chosen as one of the hosts for the tournament when it is held in England in 2021.
The competition’s organisers confirmed Sheffield United's Bramall Lane will host an England game, while the English Institute of Sport will host the group games and semi-finals of the wheelchair tournament.
Mr Clifton said: “We are very pleased and we’re really excited. It’s been 14 months in the making – that’s when the Rugby League World Cup team started the bid process.
“We have had a few favours and we’ve had a great team including Sheffield United, Sheffield International Venues, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Eagles, Olympic Legacy Park, English Institute of Sport and the council. It’s been a real partnertship approach and I think that’s bore through.”
Mr Clifton revealed the city missed out on hosting the competition when it was held in England and Wales in 2013 but said the city was delighted to be chosen to host an England game of the 2021 tournament.
He said: “Any one of the teams can only play a maximum of seven games and we've got one of England’s games so we’re really pleased about that.
“It will be under the floodlights and it will look fantastic with the eyes of the world watching.”
Sheffield’s bid team is also hoping to host one of the men’s teams for the duration of the four-week tournament, which will run from October 23 until November 27, 2021.
The English Institute of Sport will also host the wheelchair competition and Mr Clifton said that will also boost Sheffield’s economy.
He said: “Some of the figures that were done for the 2013 World Cup by UK Sport suggested hosting an England group game was worth around £1 million to £1.5 million.
“There will be 30,000 people in Bramall Lane – most of which will be visitors and possibly staying in the city too. As for the wheelchair tournament, it’s a new one so it’s hard to put a number on it.
“We’ve got four teams playing in the group and then four playing in the semi-finals and the work the BBC will be doing to promote the sport, it’s going to drive audience figures so that will be a great economic driver.”
Mr Clifton said organisers have estimated the tournament will be viewed by around 150 million people in 150 different countries and he added he hoped the competiton would help increase attendances at Sheffield Eagles, who begin their second season back in Sheffield when they host Swinton at the Olympic Legacy Park on Sunday.
He said: “I would hope that this will be a massive shot in the arm for the Eagles. They returned to the city last year and we have got to believe that with the tournament’s legacy programmes it will refocus support.
“It’s not that long ago that Sheffield Eagles won the Challenge Cup so the appetite for the sport is there. Hopefully, it will refocus attention the the Eagles are back in the city.”