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Qatar eyes hosting of Rugby League World Cup 2025

The International Rugby League board convened an emergency meeting on Wednesday to develop a contingency plan for identifying an alternative host.

Qatar, along with New Zealand, South Africa and Fiji, has expressed interest in hosting the next Rugby League World Cup following France’s withdrawal due to financial concerns.

The organising committee announced on Monday that the tournament will not take place in France in 2025, as the country has failed to meet the financial criteria set by the government, putting the event at risk of a deficit.

Although a decision is not anticipated until July, the International Rugby League (IRL) chair, Troy Grant, revealed that four nations—Qatar, New Zealand, South Africa and Fiji—have already put forward their candidacy.

Qatar, which successfully hosted the men’s football World Cup last year, is among the frontrunners.

While these countries have expressed their interest, Grant underscored that all options remain under consideration. This includes potentially postponing the event to 2026 or even cancelling the upcoming tournament and focusing on the 2029 event.

According to The Guardian, Grant stated: “We’ll be forwarding each expression of interest to our committee. All and any options will be presented and thorough due diligence will be carried out. The reality is the tournament’s scale will impact our decision.”

Qatar’s interest in hosting major sporting events has surged in recent years. The nation’s successful hosting of last year’s FIFA World Cup garnered global attention.

Qatari billionaire, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, has also reportedly made an augmented offer to acquire Manchester United this week.

Additionally, Qatar Sports Investment, a subsidiary of the Qatari state-owned sovereign wealth fund, holds shares in Paris Saint-Germain, and the Gulf nation is further slated to host next year’s under-19s Asian Cup and 2030 Asian Games.

Despite Qatar’s growing interest in sports, a bid to bring rugby league to the Middle East would be a notable development.

Grant, however, cautioned against premature speculation about Qatar’s bid, noting that the region’s high temperatures during the proposed tournament period could impact decision-making.

The previous Rugby League World Cup held in England last year simultaneously featured men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, a format that gained widespread praise.

France had planned to incorporate a youth tournament as well. However, Grant conceded that given the tight timescales, it might be challenging to replicate this multi-tournament format if the World Cup proceeds in 2025.

He said, “The uniqueness of three World Cups being run simultaneously was a major draw and we’re the only sport that has adopted this format. It’s a massive selling point.

Abandoning this strategy would be disappointing, but we must be pragmatic in our decision-making process going forward.”