The Rugby League World Cup scheduled to begin in October in England was postponed to 2022 on Thursday.
The news had been anticipated after Australia and New Zealand pulled out of the tournament two weeks ago, citing safety fears amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers initially vowed to proceed with the tournament but were forced to acknowledge defeat as all 16 National Rugby League clubs in Australia and New Zealand backed the decision.
“Ultimately, time and competing priorities from others forced us to make the most difficult decision in our six-year history,” tournament chief executive Jon Dutton said at a media conference Thursday.
“However, we and the sport of rugby league are resilient, and next year we will deliver our vision of the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup ever. ” The postponement followed an emergency board meeting on Wednesday.
The tournament was scheduled to begin on October 23. Organizers will now try to avoid a direct scheduling clash with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which runs November 18 to December 21 in Qatar.
Dutton said the vast majority of players remained keen to take part.
“We have always prioritized player voice and player choice,” Dutton said.
“We have established a player working group, met with senior players and in the last few days commissioned a player survey to domestic players in Australia and New Zealand that showed more than 85% wanted to compete at RLWC2021 this year.”
“However, following the disappointing decision of the ARLC and NZRL to withdraw and the subsequent impact on player availability for other competing nations, it is apparent that delivering the tournament this year would not be feasible.”