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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 17:13 GMT
World Cup returns profit
Rugby League's much-maligned World Cup has returned a profit of more than £2m despite the small crowds the tournament attracted.
While the amount is less than some among the competition organisers had aimed for, it still represents a substantial sum for the game's governing body to spend on worldwide development.
Organisers were criticised over planning, ticketing and marketing, but thanks largely to television monies they have still made a profit.
"There are clearly lessons to be learnt but an event that produces a surplus before distributions of six to seven million Australian dollars hardly represents a failure, as some people have been claiming," said Sir Rodney Walker, vice chairman of the Rugby League International Federation.
"And that leaves the International Federation for the first time ever with sufficient funds to be able to assist with the development of the game around the world.
"We have not made the surplus that I privately hoped for because attendances generally were lower than we had budgeted for we but it was still a successful and profitable competition, largely due to the high level of sponsorship and commercial deals that underpinned the event.
"Clearly we weren't helped by the weather, transport difficulties and the like but I think we have learned from our mistakes.
"We would probably take fewer games away from the heartland and we would have started the competition differently, probably with a different time and venue.
"And we would certainly want the major opening game to be the first game on television."
Walker, who is also chairman of the Rugby Football League, believes there is an international future for the home nations and France as well as for Great Britain
""There will have to be some serious discussions on how we can play meaningful Test matches without unduly interrupting the domestic fixtures," he said.
"It may not be possible for 2001 because we are too far down the road with fixture planning but, even now, we ought to make an attempt to find space to play Tests against France and Wales in the coming season, even if it has to be midweek.
"The World Cup clearly revitalised the game in France, where they need international competition to sustain interest in rugby league in that country.
"There is also a strong argument for a Test match between Wales and England because of what we saw in the semi-final and an opportunity needs to be explored as to whether we can have fixtures between Great Britain and the Rest of the World.
"As for the future, I want us to try to plan space for games against Australia during the season."
Walker sees the future of the tournament as remaining in the northern hemisphere for the time being.
"It is my understanding that both Australia and New Zealand don't feel they have any prospects of being able to achieve what we did so, at the moment, the most likely place for the next World Cup will be back here in the UK, but that depends what the International Federation decides," he said.
The RLIF will meet in March, but a decision on the venue for the 2004 World Cup is not expected until October.
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