Let's bring the World Cup to Doncaster

David Kessen, of the Doncaster Free Press, pictured with l-r Neil Turner, Craig Harrison, Ray Green, Carl Hall, Tony Miller, Stewart Piper and Luke Gale. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Rugby MC 1
David Kessen, of the Doncaster Free Press, pictured with l-r Neil Turner, Craig Harrison, Ray Green, Carl Hall, Tony Miller, Stewart Piper and Luke Gale. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Rugby MC 1

Today the Doncaster Free Press gives its backing to a bid to bring the Rugby League world cup to Doncaster.

We are giving the bid our support, and this week gathered some of the biggest names in the sport's Doncaster history together to join us in sending the message: "Back the bid".

Former Doncaster players Neil Turner, Carl Hall, Tony Miller, Stewart Piper and Luke Gale, along with former club official Ray Green, and former club owner Craig Harrison, joined community engagement editor David Kessen, outside the proposed venue for matches, the Keepmoat Stadium, to launch our campaign.

A joint bid is being put together involving Doncaster Council, Business Doncaster, and Club Doncaster, the umbrella organisation which works with the borough's professional sports clubs.

They are putting together a case which will be presented to the organisers of the Rugby League World Cup, who will select where the games will be played during the tournament in 2021.

In total, 16 teams will play 31 matches during the tournament.

There will also be 14 venues hosting games, and the minimum capacity for a stadium will be 12,000. The Keepmoat Stadium, where any games would be played in Doncaster, seats 15,000 spectators. The men's Rugby League World Cup, the Women’s Rugby League World Cup, and Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup will all be played at the same time.

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing expressions of support from the community, to show how much the competition means to the people of Doncaster, which has had a professional rugby league club since 1951.

We believe that basing matches or a team in Doncaster during the world cup would be a major boost for both the sport and for the borough.

Free Press editor Nancy Fielder said: "For the sport, it would see the game strengthen its fan base in the town, and Doncaster's location in the game's Yorkshire heartland would ensure a full stadium for some of the most exciting sport in the world. It would mean a warm and welcoming base for any team that was based here, with some great training facilities and fine hotels in a town with a history of hosting big sporting events, from the famous St Leger to recent Rugby League Challenge Cup semi finals.

"It would also mean more and more youngsters getting a taste of a game can help them live a fit and healthy lifestyle, encouraging them to get involved as spectators and with playing in the grass roots teams in the borough.

"For Doncaster, it would would put the borough on a well-deserved international stage, offering residents the chance to see top level sport, bringing visitors to see the fine facilities that we have in the borough, from our fantastic, modern stadium to our fine hotels and restaurants.

"We're backing Doncaster's bid - and we urge our readers to do the same."

Over the coming weeks, our World Cup 2021: Touch Down in Doncaster campaign will highlight the borough's Rugby League heritage, and publish your messages of support for the campaign and the for the World Cup bid.

Perhaps your school is making posters to support the bid? Perhaps your workplace is running an event to back the bid? Either way, let us know, or send us your pictures, and we will publish as many as we can.

We will also report the stories of those who care about the sport, about why it is so important to them.

'We feel we've proven ourselves'

Former Dons star Carl Hall, a New Zealander who has stayed in Doncaster since coming to the borough to play the game 20 years ago, is on the bid committee.

He now works as the chief executive at Doncaster Rugby League Club.

He said: "We've already got experience of hosting a World Cup warm up match before the 2013 World Cup.

"We'd like to host a team and get a match. We are now putting together the application process.

"We think this could get more kids playing the game. We've got teams in Bentley, Moorends and Toll Bar, and we'd love to see more children playing. When it's Wimbledon, the children want tennis rackets. If there is a football world cup, they go out and play football. We want to see the Rugby League World Cup here and the youngsters playing Rugby League.

"We feel like we've proven ourselves with the success of the Rugby League Challenge Cup semi finals we've hosted in Doncaster. It would be a full house."

World Cup Timeline

The venues for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup are expected to be announced early next year.

Officials in the borough are currently putting together the bid, having confirmed Doncaster's plans to apply to be a host town.

The deadline for applications is the end of July, with successful applications moving on to a 'candidate stage' . During that period, officials from the world cup will visit facilities to see what is on offer.

Decisions are expected to be made in January 2019.