Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) have delayed ticket sales for the tournament and pledged to give 21,021 free tickets to those working in roles that are critical to the COVID-19 response.

The event was due to announce plans for ticket sales to begin this summer. However, following the outbreak, the team and the board have collectively agreed a new timeline, allowing for flexibility around dates due to the uncertainty of global events.

Between June and September, organisers plan to detail the schedules for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments, as well as ticket tiers and prices.

In September, pre-sales will be launched for the rugby league ‘family’ – including registered fans and clubs – and corporate partners in group one, and host city residents and venue databases in group two.

The tournament’s first ever public ballot will open on October 21 and anyone will be able to request tickets for as many individual fixtures as they wish until November 27.

The results of the public ballot will be revealed in December and tickets will then go on general sale in early 2021.

Jon Dutton, chief executive of RLWC2021, said: “Other sports, clubs, leagues and events have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 and our planning needs to be aligned and proportionate with the global crisis and respectful of more immediate needs. We have done various aspects of scenario planning and we believe the current plan is the most suitable at this point, however we know we are required to be flexible and adapt as and when appropriate.

“The team has made the unanimous decision to provide 20,021 free tickets to keyworkers in the UK as our way of saying thank you. The work, effort, dedication and sheer determination needs to be recognised and hopefully we can provide these local heroes and their families with something to look forward to next year.”

The initiative is similar to one launched by Premier League football clubs AFC Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove Albion, which will donate a minimum of 1,000 match tickets each to UK National Health Service (NHS) staff for when football resumes.

The clubs extended an invitation to clubs in the English Football League (EFL) to join the initiative – with Reading confirming it had signed up today (Friday).

Reading chief executive Nigel Howe said: “This is when community matters. As and when football resumes, our turnstiles will be very much open to any frontline NHS worker who helped fight to save lives in such difficult circumstances.”

Full details of how the tickets will get directly into the hands of those NHS keyworkers will be announced in due course once there is more clarity over when football is expected to restart.

Image: RLWC