The president of The Rugby Football League has called the governing bodies of Australia and New Zealand "selfish, parochial and cowardly " followingtheir decision to withdraw their national teams from this year's World Cup, a decision that left the competition organizers reeling and trying to decide if the event can and will go without them.
World Cup organizers received just four minutes' notice of the statement The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) confirmed on Thursday that They would not participate this year. Both governing bodies cite player welfare and safety concerns linked to Covid-19 as the reason for their withdrawal.
But Simon Johnson, the boss of the RFL, launched a scathing attack against his counterparts. "World Cup organizers bent over backwards for many months to address concerns raised by Australians and New Zealanders," he said. "We thoughtthat we were in a position where they were ready to come. I'm sorry, but I have no choice but to call this a selfish, parochial, cowardly decision. "
Greg Peters Chief Executive Officer of NZRL said he was "just too dangerous " to participate, despite assurances from World Cup organizers about the safety of all players and staff. South Sydney CEO, Blake Solly, told The Guardian last week that NRL clubs wanted the tournament to be pushed back to 2022 , which is now the most likely possibility as organizers consider taking action without precedent to proceed without the two strongest nations Eight of the last nine World Cups have been won by Australia, with the exception of the victory of New Zealandmoor in 2008.
But Johnson pointed to this at a time when Australia and New Zealand sent teams to the Olympics, the decision to removing no longer makes sense. "They have athletes in Tokyo right now," he said. "But there is a point here that Australia just hosted the Olympics in 2032, and would therefore proclaim itself a leader in women's sport and disability.
" And yet the events that suffer the most here are the Women's and Wheelchair World Cups. This will deal a serious blow to their development. You wonder how the management will look to their players and say that while their counterparts can take part in all kinds of other events, they are going to take the pinnacle of the game away from them. "
RLWC2021, the tournament organizers, were confident that they could assure the ARLC to sign the participation agreement inenforcing strict bubble conditions for participating athletes. But even that couldn't persuade the ARLC and NZRL that the risk is worth it, claiming that in the current environment in the UK the risk is too great for athletes and officials.
Time spent away from home, including quarantine periods, was also cited as a reason for withdrawal. The timing of the tournament was also a concern for clubs in the NRL, whose players then had to quarantine themselves for two weeks upon their return to Australia after the November 27 final. Players would then be entitled to annual leave under their NRL contracts, which would mean they would not resume pre-season training until the end of January.
" RLWC2021 notes the disappointing statement made by ARLC and NZRL, which may have far-reaching implications forr the International Rugby League, ”reads a press release from the organizers. “RLWC2021 has been briefed on a very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward. Another statement will be made in due course. "
In a statement, International Rugby League aviator Troy Grant said:" Although I can appreciate the intention of the ARLC to ensure the safety and well-being of the players, I find it difficult to find the words that correctly describe my disappointment at this decision. Every sport organization, every industry, government and family around the world has been affected by this pandemic.
"RLWC2021 and IRL have only recently stated that we fully appreciate the challenges we face to organize a successful World Cup with the safety of players and officials as a priority and we haveResponded to all inquiries regarding this issue from the ARLC, NZRL and Rugby League Players Association [RLPA]. All designed to mitigate potential risks and meet ARLC and NZRL requirements.
The World Cup has already received around £ 25million in financial support from the government and organizers have secured lucrative broadcast and sponsorship packages for the 'event, which as it stands is set to start in Newcastle on 23 October, when the English hosts face Samoa at St James ' Park.
" The withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from the Rugby Union World Cup is a blow, "said Jo Stevens, the shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sports (DCMS). "Hosting the World Cup was to provide a much needed injection of cash for sport and communitiess organizing the games. Cases are skyrocketing, but government determined to celebrate "Freedom Day"; to the detriment of public health, business and now endangering one of the biggest sporting events of this year in Britain. "