Sheffield will be getting a taste of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup after organisers chose the city as the venue for one of England’s group games.
The city submitted its bid to the competition’s organisers last year in the hope of convincing them the city should be chosen as a host city of the tournament when it comes to England in October and November 2021.
The host cities were announced live online this morning (Tuesday) and it was confirmed Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane will host an England game.
Announcing Sheffield as one of the venues, TV presenter Charlie Webster said: “Sheffield United’s ground is the oldest major football stadium in the world that’s still in use and the perfect venue for the Rugby League World Cup.
“Sheffield’s diverse culture makes it the ideal host. It’s a modern city with a large student population, vibrant nightlife and was a natural choice as a host city due to its community focus and youth development.”
The English Institute of Sport, in Attercliffe, will also host the group games and semi-finals of the wheelchair competition.
England wheelchair player James Simpson, who started the sport after suffering life-changing injuries on Army patrol in Afghanistan, said: “This World Cup we are trying to get out of the sports hall and get into the bigger venues.
“As part of the World Cup we are going to be travelling around and showcasing the sport. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
The four-week event will be held across England between October 23 and November 27, 2021 and will feature men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions.
Former Leeds Rhinos star Kevin Sinfield said: “This venue (Bramall Lane) will play a key part and hopefully we will fill Bramall Lane.”
The tournament’s organisers estimated that the games will be watched worldwide by 150 million people across 115 countries.
Coun Mary Lea, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said: “This exciting event will leave a long-lasting legacy that celebrates the heritage of rugby league and inspires a whole new generation of rugby fans and players regardless of age, gender or physical ability.
“The success of our bid reflects the quality of our world-class sporting facilities, varied leisure and entertainment offer, valuable accommodation and excellent city wide partnerships, and we look forward to welcoming athletes and spectators from across the UK and around the world to enjoy our vibrant and diverse city.”
Jon Dutton, chief executive of the tournament, said Sheffield will also have the opportunity to be involved in the InspirationALL programme, which aims to ensure there is a legacy after the tournament.
He said: “We are delighted that Bramall Lane will add another marquee event to its long and rich sporting history, when England men’s team play one of their group games in the tournament.
“Along with the wheelchair games, including the double header semi-finals being staged at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield has been rewarded for its excellent bid and will play not only a huge part in the tournament but also have a great opportunity to be part of our diverse InspirationALL legacy programme.”
Dave McCarthy, operations director at Sheffield United, said the club was ‘honoured’ Bramall Lane had been chosen as a host venue.
He said: “We are honoured that our stadium has been chosen to stage games which could involve some of the biggest names at international level.
Our Bramall Lane stadium will be an amazing venue, showcasing once again the versatility of the stadium in the modern era of sport and entertainment.”
Former sports minister Richard Caborn, who is project lead for the Olympic Legacy Park, paid credit to the team behind the bid.
He said: “This is fantastic news for Sheffield and a credit to our bid team. Sheffield is a passionate sports city which will play its part in offering outstanding facilities and a very warm welcome to players, officials and spectators from across the world.”
Sheffield Eagles, who moved back to the city earlier last year after a four-year exile, backed the bid and head coach Mark Aston said he hoped the tournament would lead to a lasting legacy for the club.
He added: “It’s fantastic we have been awarded host city status. A lot of effort has gone on behind the scenes with a very strong bid submitted. We have always believed that Sheffield is the perfect fit for the tournament but to finally be given confirmation is brilliant.
“This could be a catalyst for the Eagles and the sport of rugby league to progress and develop further in the city. The hard work starts now, from all those involved in the bid, to make sure we deliver this and create a lasting legacy from hosting the pinnacle event in our sport.”
National teams taking part will include England, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa,Tonga, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea and Jamaica.
Exact dates for fixtures and ticket details have not yet been finalised.