Mike Parsons reports on Warrington's Rugby League World Cup 2021 bid and latest developments confirmed by the organisers

LEGACY plays a prominent role in Warrington's bid to feature in Rugby League World Cup 2021.

The town's hosting of Samoa, staging of two games and built-in activity during the tournament of five years ago were hailed a huge success by the event's chiefs, a £3m economic impact being cited.

But RLWC2021 is to be bigger and higher profile, featuring tournaments for men (16 teams), women (eight teams) and wheelchair (eight teams), and backed by the government to the tune of £25m.

Now, leading figures from Warrington’s business, culture, sporting and voluntary sectors are bidding to host three men’s games, one of the competing nations’ squads, as well as the women's final.

Warrington's bid group is tapping into the importance being placed by organisers on the event's legacy.

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Warrington's RLWC2021 bid partnership group chairman Paul Taylor with the Rugby League World Cup

"Our role as a partnership group is to build on the success of the 2013 bid and event, which was spectacular," said Paul Taylor, bid group chairman and managing director of Taylor Business Park.

"We've gone for what we know we can do. It's deliverable and it's really ambitious."

A centre of excellence, a community hub for all, the creation of 2021 coaches by 2021, retention of volunteer support, setting up of girls' rugby league across the town's community clubs, assembling a women's Super League team for 2020, and establishing a business mentor programme are among the plans for the World Cup to leave something behind in Warrington.

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Members of Warrington’s bid partnership group

Neil Kelly, director of Warrington Wolves Foundation, said: "For me, a legacy isn’t something that starts afterwards – it starts now.

"We are committed to leaving something really lasting for this town as well as backing the World Cup."

Leisure and cultural events in Warrington linked to the tournament five years ago included among the highlights schools competitions, tag rugby tournaments, trophy library tour, town rugby trail, a mass dance project, town centre march and the repatriation of a Maori head from Warrington Museum.

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Flashbacks to some highlights of 2013

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Emma Hutchinson, managing director of LiveWire and Culture Warrington, said: "The bid for 2021 is already looking stronger and more comprehensive than in 2013 but it’s taken on board the lessons learned and going the extra mile."

Organisers are aiming for 750,000 spectators across the tournament in 2021, compared to 458,000 five years ago.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 chief executive, said: "We want our selected host towns and cities to be shining beacons, as Warrington was in 2013.

"We have to transcend the sport. We cannot just talk to the rugby league community to deliver success."

Some key points made by members of Warrington's partnership bid group:

Steven Broomhead, Warrington Borough Council chief executive and Warrington Wolves vice-chairman:

Hopefully it's going to be the people's World Cup here in Warrington and it has te full support of the council, Warrington Wolves and the government.

And it has considerable business support from everybody who has put the town's bid together.

Last time, when we had Samoa here, we had an economic impact of £3m so that's the kind of number we're expecting to double in 2021.

It will be a festival of rugby league but it won’t just be about the sport itself because there will be other things happening around the cultural and indeed the economic agenda.

It’s a massive opportunity for businesses with the increased visitors. For suppliers, for training facilities, media support, promotion, marketing.

Rugby league is in the DNA of this town. There are seven community clubs in the borough, it’s played currently in 62 of our schools.

The bid that we’re making is in the context of the Rugby League World Cup in 2021, which will commence late October/November.

The men’s game will have 16 teams, 31 games and will be played in up to 14 stadia.

The women’s game will have eight teams with 16 games.

We’d like to see at least three men’s games at The Halliwell James Stadium including a quarter final.

And we’d like to see the women’s final here too.

Paul Taylor, Warrington's partnership bid group chairman and Taylor Business Park managing director:

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Warrington's RLWC2021 bid partnership group chairman Paul Taylor with the Rugby League World Cup and Warrington Wolves mascot Wolfie

Our role as a partnership group is to build on the success of the 2013 bid and event, which was spectacular.

The bid itself is still viewed as an example to others putting a bid together now.

So we intend to improve on that, by focusing on our strengths as a town.

One thing we're really famous for in Warrington is working in partnership.

As well, we've got the best catchment area outside the M25 in a 30-minute drive. We've got millions of people inside a 20-mile radius, with Manchester, Liverpool and the surrounding area.

Another strength is that by 2021 our £350m of development in Warrington town centre will be complete. The Youth Zone will be complete by then as well.

We've gone for what we know we can do. It's deliverable and it's really ambitious.

Three men's games on the cards, one being a quarter final, but I think what we're really looking forward to as well is hosting the women's final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. I think that's going to be the icing on the cake of the whole thing.

We're going to be creating a women's rugby league team in the next 18 months.

There's lots of focus on legacy, lasting effects on the town and its people.

As we've seen with things like the Olympics, the idea of legacy can fizzle out.

We're going to try and create 2021 coaches by 2021, a centre of excellence, also signing up volunteers like last time but retaining them and calling on them for other events.

Karl Fitzpatrick, Warrington Wolves chief executive:

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The best World Cup experience I had was probably in 2009 when I played in the World Cup, representing Ireland.

What an experience that was! Memories that last a lifetime.

We were paired with Samoa and Tonga in what was nicknamed the group of death.

We made our way through and reached the semi final, where we got beat by Fiji who were inspired by a young Jarryd Hayne.

Looking ahead at the 2021 World Cup, what a fantastic opportunity it is going to be for the town.

Not only is it going to provide significant growth for the business community, but it’s going to transcend the sport and it’s going to inspire the future generations of rugby league players like it inspired me in 1995 as a 15-year-old.

Not only that it’s going to provide a global platform to showcase everything that is fantastic about this town.

We have four values at this club that underpins everything that we do – excellence, honesty, pride and respect.

Those four values underpin this town, I believe, and also underpin this bid.

Excellence – you’re going to see the best players, in the best games, in the best atmosphere, in the best stadiums.

Honesty – rugby league is the most honest and tough sport played by the most honest and tough men and women.

Pride – Warrington is such a proud town. Born and bred in Wigan, I’m an adopted Warringtonian and been here since 2010. Warrington is such a proud town, an outstanding achiever, a shining beacon of the north.

Respect – Like we did in 2013 when we embraced the Samoan team and the Samoan culture, we will do so again in 2021 with our designated team.

Emma Hutchinson, managing director of LiveWire and Culture Warrington:

We did a fantastic job of showcasing the town in 2013 and to get more local people involved in the sport and the events surrounding it, not only the leisure events but the breadth of cultural events that we delivered.

It undoubtedly contributed to the local economy but it also celebrated the strong community focus that we've got here in Warrington.

It instilled civic pride in the town, and raised the awareness of the breadth of opportunities to engage in sport and cultural activities.

But we are looking for a bigger and better bid to build on those successes of 2013 while also introducing new ideas.

Legacy is going to be absolutely key.

The bid for 2021 is already looking stronger and more comprehensive than in 2013 but it’s taken on board the lessons learned and going the extra mile.

Some of the more successful events and activities from last time have been booked again, because they do still exist as legacy from 2013.

But we’ve a view to those projects reaching more people and exceeding what they achieved in 2013, which is no easy task.

There are still a small number of projects existing today that we can carry through to 2021.

For me, LiveWire will use the Rugby League World Cup 2021 as a hook to engage new participants in sport and physical activity, and not just in rugby league.

Plus, use the tournament as a platform to promote healthy lifestyle services and engage people in those.

And to bring new readers and learners into the library service, hopefully creating a legacy of happy and healthy residents – having a real impact on their well being.

On the culture side, this will provide an opportunity to shout about our pride and heritage, and also to present Warrington as a tourist destination.

Neil Kelly, director of Warrington Wolves Foundation:

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It gives us another chance to engage with all of our community about the passion, pride and honesty of our game, and to showcase it.

The 2013 Rugby League World Cup did did leave us with some really good legacy and we built on it.

Two percent of participation rates rose between our seven community clubs, so that means more under sevens, eights and nine-year-old teams.

Right across the board we've got age groups, which will provide the Warrington Wolves team with players for the future that come from our town.

For me, a legacy isn’t something that starts afterwards – it starts now. There’s a big programme now where we’re trying to look at a community hub, which isn’t just for rugby league but for everybody to be included.

We've already started the disability rugby league programme - that's physical, learning and wheelchair. And as part of that we're taking a team out to Australia in August.

One of the games we are bidding for is the women’s final.

Everyone’s saying, why are we bidding for that – we haven’t even got a women’s team.

We have got four girls from Warrington in the England team. We did have a programme and we want to re-introduce that.

This summer, starting that legacy now, 12s, 14s and 16s, we’re looking to set those teams up in Warrington. And hopefully in 2020 we’ll have a Super League women’s team here as well so that we can start to really build on that side of things.

To help support that, we’ve just confirmed that we will be holding the women’s Challenge Cup here at the stadium on August 4. So it gives us some really strong promotion for doing this.

And then there's also business mentors, using successful business people to give something back to our young people in a programme.

We are committed to doing this, we are committed to providing the legacy and leaving something really lasting for this town as well as backing the World Cup.

Some key points made by Jon Dutton, Rugby League World Cup 2021 chief executive:

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What we're trying to achieve in 2021 is different.

We went to the government in 2015 and asked for their support.

The government has supported us to the tune of £25m, which is a sizeable sum for rugby league.

With that comes a caveat that we have to deliver our incredible ambition.

I would describe this project as the single biggest project the sport has attempted in its 123-year history.

It's full of risk, but full of opportunity for the sport to get it right.

2013 was a game changer and what happened last year in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea took the World Cup on to another level.

Just to frame our vision in terms of numbers, 458,000 spectators enjoyed coming to the 28 games in 2013. That was magical and we staged a world record attendance for the final between Australia and New Zealand, with England just 30 seconds away from playing in that game.

Last year, that number dipped with the total attendance being 375,000.

Our target, to reach our ambitious contract with the government, we’ve got to more or less double that. We’ve got to get three-quarters of a million spectators in to watch the games in 2021.

One of the ways we’re going to do it, for the first time ever the men’s, women’s and wheelchair games will be staged together on the same platform. Every athlete will be treated with equality.

That in itself is worth thinking about. When we staged the Women’s World Cup and the Wheelchair World Cup in 2013, every athlete paid their own way.

Every athlete in 2021 will be treated the same, professionally and with respect.

We've started very early. I've been working on the project since 2015. We are taking this incredibly seriously but we can't do it on our own.

We want our selected host towns and cities to be shining beacons, as Warrington was in 2013.

We have to transcend the sport. We cannot just talk to the rugby league community to deliver success.

This was two years in the making - winning the bid to stage the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, convincing the government to provide money and support, and setting up the company which pretty much takes us to this day and the process we're involved in.

The next two years, 2018 and 2019, are about building on what we have created.

And then in the final two years - 2020 and 2021 - it's about positioning this tournament alongside the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby Union World Cup, the World Athletics Championships, and really having a breakthrough moment for international rugby league and the game here domestically.

Our vision is to stage the biggest and best ever World Cup and our ambition is to create memories. And it's about inspiration.

This is a mega sporting event and we want to be world class all the way through.

More from the organisers about legacy:

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RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton and Sport England property director Charles Johnston at the launch of the RLWC2021 facilities programme

Organisers of the 2021 World Cup are determined to leave a lasting legacy by making £20million available to the grassroots game.

The tournament has been boosted by a £10million government grant which organisers say will be worth double with matched contributions from recipients.

The money was pledged in 2015 as part of the establishment of the northern powerhouse and will be distributed in partnership with Sport England.

"We have £10million that the sport will spend entirely in the community of rugby league," Jon Dutton, 2021 chief executive, said.

"It's brand new money that will be divided into small grants to encourage the community to set up more junior and girls teams or for big transformational projects, which might be a new clubhouse or new synthetic pitch."

Bids open on October 23, three years out from the opening of the tournament, but clubs are invited to express their interest now and Dutton expects the scheme to be oversubscribed.

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said: "Hosting the Rugby League World Cup is a huge opportunity to promote the sport. We want the tournament to leave a lasting legacy and inspire more people to take part.

"Excellent sports facilities are important in encouraging people to get involved and keep playing. This £10 million government investment will fund new equipment, improve local clubs, and help grow the game."

Looking ahead to the tournament:

The 2021 World Cup is set to be played exclusively in England, with 80 per cent of the fixtures in the north.

Organisers will break with tradition by not starting the tournament with a blockbusting clash between England and Australia.

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Josh Charnley, then of Wigan and now of Warrington, playing for England against Australia in the opening game of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

Previous World Cups hosted by the Rugby Football League in 1995, 2000 and 2013 included fixtures in France, Wales and Ireland but government funding will dictate a change in policy for 2021.

"I think it's fair to say we won't be going to France," Dutton told a media briefing in MediaCityUK. "The £25million that has come into the tournament is money for England.

"It's a devolved budget. So it's the same with Ireland and Wales. If a really compelling bid comes to the table, we will have a real good look at it but I don't anticipate that will be the case."

There will be a total of 65 matches in 2021, including women and wheelchair events, over five weeks but organisers envisage 14 venues for the 31 fixtures for the men's tournament, down from 21 in 2013.

Dutton says London will definitely stage games and hints that fixtures could also be held in the seven major cities across the north when the list is announced next January.

"The sport in 1895 was born in the north and we should be really proud of our heritage so we've got to find the right balance between celebrating that and also getting a cut-through across the rest of England," he said.

"We have had 40 expressions of interest, that is probably now about 30, so we're going to have some really tough decisions to make. I've been blown away by the level of interest."

The number of teams will be up by two to 16 and Dutton envisages four pools of four with the big three of England, Australia and New Zealand to be joined by new heavyweights Tonga as the four seeds.