Saints prop Kyle Amor leading the fight for Cumbrian sport

Kyle Amor. Picture: SWPix
Kyle Amor. Picture: SWPix

Cumbrian Kyle Amor fears what the future holds for local sport, including Rugby League, in his native county following a decision of Allerdale Council to reject proposals to build a new stadium in Workington.

An 8,000-capacity venue, set to be shared by Championship 1 club Workington Town and Northern Premier League outfit Workington AFC, would have also included office space for 300 workers from the nearby Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility plus space for the NHS and a pharmacy.

The new ground had been the cornerstone of the area's bid to host games at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

''I just hope to make enough noise to ask if there’s any way the powers that be could rethink, because this chance won’t come around again and I believe its too big to ignore,'' said the 32-year-old St Helens prop forward.

The Ireland international, who hails from nearby Whitehaven, has received plenty of support after taking to Twitter to express his disappointment over the decision, and believes it is another missed opportunity for one of the sport's heartlands and the county in general.

"I just thought I'd put something out there and hopefully it will generate a bit more weight behind the argument if people agreed with my thoughts," Amor told Sky Sports.

"My wife and I are from there so we go home as and when we can, and the whole area is struggling like a lot of small mining towns.

''You speak to people up there and the comments are the place is struggling, so it would have been a big boost to the area and, I believe, there would be opportunities off the back of it."

This is the second time in the past decade one of West Cumbria's professional teams has seen their plans to move to a new ground frustrated, with Whitehaven's hopes of building a replacement for their Recreation Ground home and host games at the 2013 World Cup falling through.

Amor has seen for himself the passion for rugby league which still exists in Cumbria, too, and believes a modern stadium would serve as an inspiration for youngsters as it could be used as a venue for schools and junior finals, much like other professional clubs' new grounds are.

"When you go home, you see more kids walking around with rugby tops than football tops and the area is so passionate about the game," Amor said.

"Especially nowadays where there are declining numbers in participation across all sport, you want to capture that and re-engage with kids and get them wanting to be sports people again, and to do that you've got to tap into their minds from a young age and give them something to aspire to.

"I know it sounds a bit far afield, but if you've got kids playing in those competitions to get to play in a final in a stadium, it gives them a taste of what could be if they work hard."

Amor, who came through the amateur ranks at Hensingham before turning professional with Whitehaven, and St Helens team-mate Morgan Knowles are just two Cumbrians starring in Super League at present.

"It's a heartland of the sport as well, so while the stadium is not all the answers I think it would help reconnect the community with rugby league again, and get those players more involved," Amor concluded.

Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup have already set about the task of reallocating matches scheduled for Cumbria and say they will still take place in the north of England.

Plans to stage three group fixtures in west Cumbria were dropped after Allerdale Borough Council decided to scale down proposals for a new 8,000-capacity stadium in Workington due to the financial risk involved.

World Cup officials have had a contingency plan in place since announcing the venues in January and chief executive Jon Dutton says they will now begin working with new partners.

Dutton confirmed that the new venue will be in the north, although not west Cumbria, thus maintaining the organisation's commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

Just two of the 31 matches at the 2021 World Cup will take place south of Sheffield, at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and Coventry's Ricoh Arena, comfortably meeting a Government target of holding at least 80 per cent of the tournament in the Northern Powerhouse.

Dutton said: "We're obviously very disappointed by the news and we do feel that it's a lost opportunity for West Cumbria.

"Our timelines and requirements from our original bidding process will mean we will now reallocate the three group games and team base camp, which will be announced in due course.

"We wish the council the best of luck with their revised project and I am confident that community clubs across West Cumbria will continue to see the benefits of RLWC2021 via our legacy programme."