Qatar joins NZ in expressing interest to host 2025 RLWC

George Clarke |

2022 soccer World Cup host nation Qatar is interested in hosting rugby league’s 2025 tournament.
2022 soccer World Cup host nation Qatar is interested in hosting rugby league’s 2025 tournament.

International Rugby League chair Troy Grant says Qatar has appeal as a host for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup after France’s decision to withdraw from staging the event left the tournament’s future shrouded in uncertainty.

Grant said on Wednesday that expressions of interest had already been received from the Qataris as well as South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand.

He said no due diligence had yet been done, but he hoped to have a decision locked in by the end of July.

France pulled the pin on the 2025 tournament earlier this week due to financial constraints linked to the country hosting rugby union’s 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Qatar’s emergence as a contender to step into the void has merit, Grant explained, given its central location between the UK and Australia.

“The attractiveness of Qatar would be in their financial capability to meet the costs of a tournament of our size and scale,” Grant said.

“Their stadia is first-class and that has been proven with the FIFA World Cup having recently been held there successfully.

“The close proximity of stadia and the less travel required, even compared to the World Cup in England for example, would be massively advantageous regarding costs.

“It would be similar to a Magic Weekend round experience, which started in the UK and it now works so well in the NRL in Brisbane.”

Given France’s shock withdrawal, Grant said there was scope for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments to operate as standalone events after running concurrently in England last year.

“We’re not wedded to anything to be honest with you,” he said.

“We (the IRL) are that old saying, beggars can’t be choosers.”

Grant hopes that the 2025 tournament announcement will be accompanied by confirmation of a 10-year Test window, which has been held up by the NRL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.

The delay in CBA talks has led to Tonga snubbing a southern hemisphere tournament and heading to the UK for a three-Test series with England.

“The CBA negotiations certainly held us up from any prospect of getting it (the calendar) out,” he added.

“It’s central, critical to our future … without that calendar, the reality is that our future is compromised in a lot of areas.”