The 14th Rugby League World Cup starts in Cardiff, Wales, this weekend when England takes on Australia and Wales faces Italy in a double header at Millennium Stadium. From there the 14 nations will compete through the First Rounds Stages to finally face off in Wembley Stadium for the semi-finals and the final at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Coinciding with this will be the Rugby League International Federation Annual General Meeting where Chris Botes will be present on behalf of Kobus Botha, President of SARL, to discuss several matters pertaining to South Africa as well as rugby league in general. But of more importance will be the start of the formal bidding process for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. South Africa will come up against a combined bid from Australia and New Zealand, and while a surprise to some, the bid from South Africa has seen some great support from all over the world.
Kobus Botha had the following to say in response to queries: “a World Cup in South Africa makes more sense when you look at the bigger picture of where rugby league is globally. The sport has been growing bit by bit over the past few years, but has always been dominant in Australia, New Zealand and England. So when one of the “big 3” hosts, it doesn’t really mean anything in terms of international development. A World Cup in Australia does not grow the sport, it’s a “thank you” to the ARL and will be mostly attended by Australians. But since it is already the biggest sport in Australia there will be no drive to develop the game more. However, have it in South Africa and more than 500 000 players start playing the game as they want to represent South Africa. SARL needs to develop the game at various levels, and yes, it will not be easy, but it will add more than half a million players, and more than five million supporters to the global game.”
A key component of the South African Bid is not only the prospect of a very profitable World Cup, but also the lead up to the World Cup where South Africa needs to be creative in generating support and build the sport at school and university level, as well as open ages groups. Chris Botes, part of the Bid Project Team, was very upbeat: “South Africa’s Bid should not be seen as only one World Cup, but as a concentrated effort to develop and spread the sport, not only locally, but also into Africa, the Middle East, the America’s as well as Northern Africa. That is why we included an Emerging Nations event as part of the World Cup of Festivals as it’s important that the event is not only hosted well, but that more countries arrive and are able to be competitive. To this extent we propose a series of competitions and tournaments leading up to the World Cup with the express purpose of developing the game in other countries. How? Simple, by letting them play top level tournaments more regularly.”
The Final Bidding Document needs to be submitted by the 18th of November to the RLIF Bid Panel, and the presentations will be a few days before the RLIF World Cup Final on the 27th of November. South Africa has assembled a crack team to present the Bid, starting with Ian Riley as Bid Director. Ian has extensive experience in International Bids, having been Technical Director on the 2006 FIFA World Cup Bid for South Africa, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Bid for South Africa, the 2011 IRB Bid for South Africa, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Bid for England and the 2012 Olympic Bid. Ian is joined by the experienced group at WinWin Group, Steve Carver and David Germond, who between them have worked on several international events, and they also bring a strong focus on development to the process. The team is closed of by Chris Botes and James Adams, both of whom have in excess of a decade of experience in international sport, from player management to events and commercial strategies.
Although SARL was struggling for recognition, Ian Rily was adamant that the prospect of South Africa hosting such an illustrious event was instrumental in getting the Department of Sport and Recreation to step in and assist with the formal processes of getting government recognition and support.
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