RUGBY League’s World Cup faces more turmoil if it is put back a year – with EVERY game having to have its venue renegotiated.
But not one player has yet said they do not want to play if it goes ahead this year, says tournament chief executive Jon Dutton.
Talks with them until Sunday will decide whether the England-based competition's fate after Australia and New Zealand's withdrawal if it is played in 2021 threw it into doubt.
Organisers have three choices – play on, postpone until 2022 or cancel completely.
But SunSport has learned if it is delayed, new deals need to be struck for all venues – including Old Trafford for the final, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for a semi-final and Newcastle’s St James’ Park for the opening game.
If the 2022/23 football seasons put hosts at home, the schedule would have to be shuffled around or matches moved but while the views of those taking part will decide the call, so far support has been unanimous on playing this year.
Dutton, who fronted up doubting NRL chief executives with the measures in place to make sure it is as secure for players as possible, said: “No player has said, ‘No,’ directly yet but we’ll survey them with a simple question, an anonymous yes or no.
“That way they can give us a true representation. A lot has been said but it’s really important we understand. The worst scenario would be to forge ahead and find other nations and players don’t play.
“But over-ridingly, the sounds are positive. We’re absolutely committed to staging the tournament this year but we’ll speak and listen to the players. It’s been abundantly clear that hasn’t happened.
“We appreciate their concerns but we refute any allegations the environment will not be safe and secure.”
Dutton, who also issued a poster showing the measures, has spoken to NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo after Covid-19 concerns were the official reason for the pullout, adding: “We fundamentally disagree on the player safety aspect.”
And replacing Australia and New Zealand with Indigenous and Maori sides from those countries, which several players have called for, has moved a step closer.
Dutton, who says the odds of the World Cup happening this year are 50/50, added: “We've been in communication with reps, we're excited by those propositions.
“They're not national teams that readily exist but certainly that communication and consultation is already underway. We want to see the best players in the world.”
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