By Brian Lowe,
The 2025 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) reportedly is to go back out to tender.
RugbyLeaguePlanet understands that the decision was made at the International Rugby League (IRL) congress meeting in Sydney. It is unclear, however, as to precisely when the IRL will formally call for new submissions.
In 2017, the IRL, or Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) as it was then, conditionally awarded RLWC2025 to North America. That decision was based on a recommendation by the RLIF board to accept a bid by Australian sports promoter Moore Sports International (MSI), who planned to co-host the tournament in the United States and Canada.
At the time, then RLIF chairman Nigel Wood was pretty pumped up about it.
“It is exciting that our sport is expanding into a new destination for our premier event the World Cup and we will work with our members in the USA and Canada and Moore Sports International to expand the presence of our sport in these countries during the lead in to the 2025 World Cup,” he said.
MSI had proposed to start up a professional league in the United States in 2018, a competition it felt would be a good platform on which to promote rugby league in the US, and hence, a promising way to build up awareness of the sport leading into a Rugby League World Cup.
In 2017, MSI CEO Jason Moore told RLP that they were looking at providing NFL fans with an offseason contact sport.
“We picked rugby league because our research and market evaluation led us to it,” he said. “We looked at the gap in contact sport in the marketplace in the US and we think the American sports fan can understand the fundamentals of rugby league.”
That competition never got off the ground, however, although MSI did host the Rugby League Football International Challenge between England and New Zealand in Denver in June 2018.
That game was supposed to be the first of an annual matchup between the two international heavyweights over a three-year span, but following some major hiccups afterwards that allegedly involved MSI not being able to pay the English and New Zealand leagues as promised, the planned series crashed to earth with a thud.
Two years ago, when the RLIF congress approved the conditional awarding of RLWC2025 to North America, USA Rugby League (USARL) chairman Peter Illfield cautioned that it would be easier said than done. He pointed out that USARL and Canada Rugby League Association (CRLA) were not involved in MSI’s bid.
“The USARL have not been consulted or submitted anything formal to host,” he said. “We are merely the host nations by location.”
So, with IRL reportedly opting to go back to the drawing board on RLWC2025, and with no apparent alternative financial backers to replace MSI having surfaced in the interim, it would seem that the likelihood of North America hosting the 2025 tournament has become an extremely long shot.