Sheffield will find out on Tuesday if it will be a host city for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup as the countdown to the competition continues.
The city submitted its bid to the competition’s organisers last year in the hope of convincing them the city should be given a taste of the tournament and the benefits that come with it.
The competition – last held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2017 – will be held in England in October and November 2021, and tournament chiefs will announce the host cities, stadia and schedule on Tuesday morning.
And Jon Dutton, chief executive of the RLWC 2021, dropped a big hint that the Steel City may well be in for a taste of the action.
He said: “I am both pleased and proud of the progress we have made with a small and dedicated team. I have to temper that with the realisation that we haven’t delivered anything yet and ultimately we will be rightly measured on outcomes
“We had decided that if we wanted to stage another World Cup in England, it had to be bolder and braver than ever before – and in doing so, it had to capture the imagination of the wider population.
“Despite the unprecedented and seemingly never-ending instability in Whitehall, we won the biggest award of public funding into any sporting event since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“It is a funding award that shows intent from both the public and private sector that this tournament has to go beyond the sporting element and deliver great social benefit.”
The city's joint bid from Sheffield Council, Sheffield United, SIV and Sheffield Eagles means the world's top teams could play at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane when the World Cup comes to England between October 23 and November 27, 2021.
The Steel City could also host games in the ladies and wheelchair competitions, at the Olympic Legacy Park and the EIS, and is also bidding to host one of the competing teams
Officials will now make site visits to assess Sheffield's facilities, ahead of a final decision in January next year.
The competition will be the first time the men’s, ladies and wheelchair competitions will be held at the same time.
Mr Dutton said: “Whilst not pre-judging any decisions, there will be a big focus on cities, and there will be a significant footprint in London. But crucially our commitment to the Government of delivering 80 per cent of the tournament in the Northern Powerhouse will be met.
“Rugby League was born in the North of England, 123 years ago, in the summer of 1895. The sport has a rich and proud heritage and at times has grappled with its identity, particularly around expansion. Rugby League has also overcome much adversity but remains a true innovator.”
The host cities will be announced live online at 9am on Tuesday. Host Helen Skelton will be joined by RLWC2021 ambassadors; Kevin Sinfield; St Helens and England Women’s star, Jodie Cunningham; and Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair captain, James Simpson.
Mr Dutton added: “We have undertaken a thorough bid process, lasting twelve months and involving some very tough decisions. The quality of bids has been impressive across all three tournaments and we are now ready to share the venue details as we continue to build awareness and excitement.
“I look forward to congratulating those that have been successful and working with those local communities over the next 1,000 days to stage an incredibly inclusive and welcoming tournament. We appreciate some people will be disappointed that their town/city hasn’t made the final list, but the tournament will be very accessible with marquee moments to look forward to.”