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Officials confident 2021 World Cup will proceed despite UK lockdown

World Cup organisers remain optimistic the 2021 tournament will proceed despite the United Kingdom preparing for a four-week lockdown to combat a second wave of COVID-19.

Tickets have been sold for each of the 61 fixtures across the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments, starting on October 23, and RLWC2021 CEO Jon Dutton said postponing the World Cup would only be considered as a last resort.

Tournament organisers have done financial modelling for a socially distanced World Cup with attendances capped at 25 per cent, 50 per cent or 75 per cent ground capacity, as well as for full stadiums and believe it remains viable under each scenario.

Officials are reluctant to postpone the tournament by 12 months as the FIFA World Cup is scheduled in 2022 and have also ruled out moving it from England as the UK Government has committed significant funding.

"We have been very clear that although we remain realistic about the significant challenges relating to the pandemic, particularly in England, our position remains unchanged," Dutton said.

Martin Taupau playing for Samoa.
Martin Taupau playing for Samoa. ©NRL Photos

"We are 12 months away from the tournament and remain confident that RLWC2021 will take place as planned next year."

If the World Cup was postponed, it is likely that the Oceania Cup or a similar event would be held in Australia and/or New Zealand to ensure the game did not go without any international fixtures for two years.

However, no decision is expected until after winter in northern hemisphere and the fate of other major sporting events in England, such as the rescheduled European Championships next June and July, is known.

The period between January and March is going to be critical

RLWC2021 CEO John Dutton

"We’re not aware of any discussions between the IRL or any other nations about alternative options and any significant decisions will be made by our board following consultation with our partners in the New Year," Dutton said.

Dutton told a media briefing before the UK Government announced a lockdown starting on Thursday until December 2 that fans would be guaranteed a full refund on pre-purchased tickets if the World Cup was impacted by COVID-19. 

"The period between January and March is going to be critical because the first thing we have to do is look at what the world looks like," he said.

"We have to be agile and adapt to the challenges that are out there, but obviously the ideal is for this to be delivered in front of full stadia.

"I still feel incredibly positive that the tournament will happen in a year’s time like we’re planning.

"I’m utterly realistic about the challenges we’re facing, but there’s a desire from everyone – including the government – to deliver this tournament. "