Sheffielders are being asked to get behind the city’s bid for the Rugby League World Cup - which could see the world’s most diverse rugby league tournament ever held – brought to Bramall lane and other venues across the city.
Following two stages of bidding, Sheffield has been shortlisted to the final 24 cities and towns that could be selected to host the global tournament in 2021.
More than 30,000 football fans will be encouraged to get behind the city's ‘Back the Bid’ campaign at tonight’s derby clash between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, with hopes of showing the Rugby Football League how much it would mean to bring the international sporting event to the city.
The official campaign launch event will see England and Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair Rugby League star, James Simpson, join supporters at Bramall Lane, where he will address the crow at half time to celebrate Sheffield’s bid.
Leeds Rhino’s Captain, James, began playing the sport just a few years ago after recovering from life-threatening injuries inflicted during deployment in Afghanistan in 2009.
At the end of his road to recovery, he discovered Wheelchair Rugby League in 2013.
Five years later, after playing professionally for his local and national team, his hard work, determination and passion saw him become the first official ambassador of the Rugby League World Cup 2021.
The tournament will be the first time men's, ladies and wheelchair competitions will be held at the same time, and in the same country, with the men's games also being broadcast live on BBC television.
Unique in its offer, Sheffield has bid for a piece of action in all three, plus training camps and accommodation.
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “I believe that Sheffield is the perfect city to host the Rugby League World Cup in 2021. Sport is massively associated with Sheffield, not only for the sporting stars we’ve produced but for our world class facilities and the high profile events we deliver every year.
“Like the Rugby League games themselves, we’re proud that Sheffield is diverse and inclusive and I’m sure this competition will inspire a whole new generation of rugby fans and players regardless of age, gender or physical ability.
“I’m thrilled to welcome James to Sheffield on Friday and I hope the whole city will get behind our bid.
“The tournament will be watched worldwide by an estimated 150 million people across 115 countries and we must make the most of this exciting opportunity to bring the very best of Rugby League to Sheffield and expose our city the world.”
The joint bid was made Sheffield City Council, Sheffield United, Sheffield Eagles and SIV, along with Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, Scarborough Properties and Sheffield Hallam University.
If successful, it could see men's games played at Bramall Lane, with women’s games at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and wheelchair games at The English Institute of Sport.
Dave McCarthy, Operations Director at SUFC, said: “We are honoured that our stadium has been chosen for RLWC 2021, should Sheffield be selected as one of the host cities and we’re delighted to launch the ‘’Back the Bid’ campaign here on Friday, especially with it being at such a high profile game as the local derby.
“The city offers so much for visitors and having the likes of New Zealand or Australia grace the Bramall Lane turf in 2021 would be amazing, not only for the football club, but for the people of Sheffield and indeed the region.
“I hope the general public will ’Back the Bid’ to show the RFL how serious we are in staging World Cup games in three years’ time.”
Youngsters from Shooters Grove Primary School, Stannington and Beck Primary, Shiregreen will also take to the pitch tonight, putting on a half-time display of tag rugby to demonstrate the support for Rugby League already rooted across Sheffield.
Out of the 24 finalists and it is expected that between 12 to 14 of these locations will be chosen to take part when England welcomes the world’s Rugby League elite in December 2021.
The RFL is expected to announce their final decision in January.
You can join Sheffield’s ‘Back the Bid’ campaign by on social media using #backthebid and #RLWC2021Sheffield