Council chiefs in St Helens have confirmed they are bidding to become a host borough for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
To be held in England in the October-November, organisers are aiming to draw in record crowds at the 2021 tournament, with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions staged in a single, celebratory event – making it the biggest Rugby League World Cup yet.
Read more: Festival goers in critical condition after suspected drugs overdose
Earlier this year, St Helens Council and Saints were approached by the Rugby Football League (RFL) with a view for the club's 18,000 capacity Totally Wicked Stadium to bid to host group games at the men and women’s tournaments.
Initial discussions with tournament organisers also resulted in the possibility of the borough hosting a team throughout the duration of the World Cup, using Ruskin Drive Sports Village and Saints’ training base at Cowley Language College as training bases.
As part of the borough’s bid – which was officially announced during half-time of the Saints vs Warrington Wolves match yesterday evening (Thursday) - St Helens would relish the opportunity to host a nation like Tonga, a rising world rugby league powerhouse currently ranked the fourth best international rugby league side in the world.
Hosting the event in St Helens could have an economic benefit of between £2.4m-£4.5m and contribute to other strategic initiatives such as the St Helens town centre regeneration; raising the profile of St Helens; bring positive links to public health messages – and boost community engagement after 75 percent of local spectators felt that the World Cup enhanced community spirit when it was last in town in 2013.
Council leader Derek Long said: "Rugby League is in our DNA. That's why I made winning a host venue as a key priority in my first week as council leader.
“This is a great bid founded on a great partnership with Saints. We will now work hard to use this to build a great sporting legacy for our clubs and communities across the borough. "
Saints chief executive Mike Rush added: “To host a team and stage games here at The Totally Wicked Stadium would be a huge privilege for all connected with the club and town.
“A World Cup Tournament brings people together and embraces so many different cultures that to play a part as a venue and host town would be of great benefit from grass roots community rugby right through to the commercial benefits that such an event attracts.
“I am sure the whole of St Helens will get right behind our bid and we can all look forward to a fantastic Rugby League World Cup in 2021.”