France confirmed as hosts of Rugby League World Cup in 2025

France have won the right to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, the French Federation has announced.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:36 pm
French Prime Minister Jean Castex makes the announcement. Picture: SWPix

Organisers have promised to deliver a low carbon, people’s tournament with 90 per cent of the 128 matches held in mid-sized towns.

Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed the destination of the 17th World Cup at a press conference in Paris, which will be one of the 40 venues for an event that will run for five weeks from early October to mid-November 2025.

It will follow the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup and the Paris Olympics in 2024 but the Rugby League World Cup will be an ecologically and economically responsible project.

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The focus will be on accessibility and affordability, with the average price of a ticket under £25.

France 2025 will be the people’s competition,” said Michel Wiener, the tournament’s managing director. “This event will be a great public celebration that will showcase the diversity of our country’s regions.”

Wiener told the press conference he would be working on a budget of £49million. The French Government provided just over £500,000 in funding to launch the campaign to host the tournament with more to come but organisers say 70 per cent of their income would come from private sources.

They aim to sell 822,000 tickets for the 128 matches across all four events – the men’s, women’s, wheelchair and youth competitions – including 343,000 for the men’s World Cup.

Around 90 per cent of the matches will be played in mid-sized towns, with cities like Paris, Toulouse and Marseille expected to host the bigger games, including the semi-finals and final.

So far there have been bids from 38 towns and cities to act as hosts, from Brittany and Normandy in the north to the rugby league heartland of the south, and include Vichy, a spa town that was the base for German occupation in the Second World War, an event to which Castex referred in his opening speech.

Because rugby league players were associated with the Resistance, the game’s assets were seized by the Vichy regime in 1941 and the sport was banned in a decree signed by head of state Marshal Petain.

Castex said: “This is an important moment, an historic moment. It was in France that the idea for a Rugby League World Cup was first mooted in 1934.

“This did not come to fruition but, even in those days, the advocates of the sport were very determined.

“They managed to overcome the ban under the Vichy regime and the project was picked up by Paul Barriere after the war and the first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954.

“There was another World Cup in 1972 so it is high time it came back to France and this will give us an opportunity to commemorate the 130th anniversary of rugby league, which was established in 1895.”

The awarding of the tournament by the International Rugby League was a personal triumph for Luc Lacoste, the president of the French Federation.

“This is a dream come true,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this for 50 years.

“But it is more than a dream, it is a great opportunity for our sport. This project will be an accelerator for the Federation’s transformation plan. It will increase the presence of rugby league in the new regions.

“By 2026 we expect an increase in the number of clubs of 25 per cent. In six years’ time we are expecting the number of women playing rugby league to be multiplied by four and young boys and girls will be seeing new heroes on TV screens.”

Organisers expect 100,000 fans from overseas but say they will work with airlines on reducing emissions and ban internal flights.

Instead, they say the focus will be on a renewable mobility platform which will include autogas coaches for teams’ transport and car sharing, bicycles and electric vehicles for the short distances between the host towns and base camps.

Ralph Rimmer, the Chief Executive of the RFL who has been a member of the International Rugby League Sub-Committee working on the France bid, said: “I am delighted for Luc Lacoste and the team he has assembled that they have secured the right to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

“It was the imagination and determination of French Rugby League pioneers such as Paul Barriere which established our sport’s World Cup in 1954, and it has taken similar qualities to allow this announcement to be made 50 years since France last staged the competition in 1972.

“With Rugby League in France enjoying a golden year in 2021, their Wheelchair team ranked number one in the world, and Toulouse Olympique joining the Catalans Dragons in the forthcoming Betfred Super League season, this is another major boost to Rugby League in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere.

“Working with Luc and his team over recent months has been a pleasure. Along the way, they also have forged strong partnerships with, and won the confidence of, the French national and regional governments. They are a very focused and impressive unit.

“I would also like to pay tribute to Troy Grant, the IRL Chair, for joining Luc in promoting this concept – Troy has been an outstanding Chair.

“We have much to anticipate in England this autumn as we prepare to host RLWC2021, following its postponement last year – and can now do so in the knowledge that the World Cup will return to France in 2025 after a 53-year absence.”