Organisers of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) in England remain positive about the event despite facing a number of challenges due to COVID-19, as hospitality packages go on sale today (Tuesday).
The tournament, which is still 14 months away, has today kicked off sales for its eight-tiered hospitality and premium ticket experiences across 21 venues, including Old Trafford, Anfield, St James’ Park and Emirates Stadium.
Fans can choose from the Champions Lounge, World Cup Lounge, Legends Lounge, Club 21 and a variety of private boxes.
Next year’s event will see a combined event for the first time in the quadrennial tournament’s history with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being staged together.
Despite COVID-19 forcing several major events to be cancelled or postponed in 2020, Jonathan Neill, RLWC2021’s commercial director, told TheTicketingBusiness that “time is on our side” as he looks ahead to the event, which is scheduled for October 23 to November 27, 2021.
He said: “We’re looking at everything positively and time is currently on our side. Much of this is still unknown and things are obviously changing on a daily basis, and we need to be flexible, reactive, responsive and continue to be led by Government advice.
“Therefore, we’re looking at this as an opportunity. We believe that 2021 will be an opportunity to use sport to support communities as we emerge from the pandemic.
“We’ve all collectively not had much to look forward to this year, so with 2021 around the corner, our tournament is a very good option to bring friends, families, colleagues together in a unique event.”
While 2021 does look more crowded when it comes to major sporting events, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the men’s European Football Championship moving into the year, Neill notes that those events are “somewhat limited when it comes to ticket opportunities and attending the event in person for people in England.”
The pandemic has presented organisers with several challenges, including the need for a ticket purchase guarantee and the fact that many hospitality providers have been heavily impacted in recent months.
Following a fan survey to gauge the public’s propensity to purchase tickets, the organisation found an “overwhelming desire to purchase,” though most expressed the need for protection if anything changes.
The RLWC2021 is guaranteeing a refund for all ticket buyers including hospitality sales, should there be restrictions on crowds or if the event has to be postponed or cancelled in order to “provide a reassurance for our customers.”
“The purchase guarantee could be seen as one challenge – customers have told us they want reassurance around postponement and cancellation,” Neill said. “With 14 months to go, we all hope that live sport will be back to normal as soon as possible, and our tournament will be part of that celebration next year.
Neill also noted the challenges the tournament faced with regards to pricing. He said: “We know that the pandemic has clearly impacted the country financially, so we’ve provided a range of options to suit all audiences. One of our key values is inclusivity, so we committed to offer a wide variety of hospitality options and price points to our customers.
“Our commercial model for hospitality also sees us working with approved hospitality providers, sales providers and brokers – whether agencies, venues and clubs. They have all been heavily impacted in recent months with many furloughing staff, but we’ve continued to have positive engagement where possible, and as they come back to work we’re seeing that they view RLWC2021 Hospitality as a positive opportunity for continued fan engagement and driving revenue.”
The RLWC2021 has moved the pre-sale back slightly from July to September, “which we felt was appropriate,” and hospitality programmes launch today alongside international fan travel going on sale also.
A priority access 10-day sale period for general admission tickets kicks off from September 21, as well as tickets for domestic fan travel on that day.
Following that window, the public ballot will open on October 23 and all fans will be able to apply for tickets until November 16. General sale will then kick off early in the new year.
Neill said he is confident in the tournament’s ability to shift tickets despite the ongoing pandemic.
He said: “We have every confidence in our tournament in terms of what we stand for and how that can positively engage our fans, alongside our product offerings, and the options we’re providing. We’ve been guided by research and that’s shown positive opportunities to put us in the position to go on sale in September.
“Some things we clearly just don’t know and it’s fair to say we can make some assumptions also given the huge economic impact, but we’re excited as we move into September and as a company and event we go on sale with a variety of products.
“There is still a confidence in the marketplace that we’re a desirable opportunity for hospitality experiences, therefore if we position ourselves to the right audiences and ensure we have maximum visibility and exposure, we’re confident we’ll certainly be heading in the right direction to meet our objectives.”