The Rugby League World Cup 2021 in England has kicked off the tournament’s first ever public ballot today (Friday), with more than 80 per cent of tickets priced below £50.

The tournament, which begins exactly one year from today when hosts England take on Samoa at St James’ Park, has guaranteed fans 100 per cent refunds if COVID-19 is to affect the attendance capacities or force it to be cancelled or postponed. Organisers have already said the event could be pushed back 12 months to 2022 as a “last resort”, with a variety of plans in place for situations ranging from 25 per cent crowds to just up above 50 per cent.

Terri Lynam, customer director of the RLWC2021, told TheTicketingBusiness that she remains positive that the guarantee will not need to be activated, but said ticketing partner Ticketmaster would utilise an automated system to provide refunds if the event is cancelled due to COVID-19.

Lynam told TheTicketingBusiness: “We’re in a fortunate position that our tournament has a fixed date and that’s 12 months away, so we remain positive that we’ll be in position this time next year to celebrate the return of live sport and full stadiums with RLWC2021 being a big part of that celebration.

“We have provided fans with a full refund guarantee should any RLWC2021 match be cancelled (as per our terms and conditions), giving fans the assurance and security required to encourage purchasing this year.”

In another first for the rugby league event, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cup tournaments will be taking place simultaneously across England. Fans will be able to apply for tickets for each of the 61 matches across all three tournaments, with tickets in every price category at every match available.

Organisers have reminded supporters that the ballot does not work on a first come, first served basis and all applications submitted at any time before or on November 16 will be assessed equally.

RLWC2021 has labelled itself as “inclusive, accessible and affordable” with ticket prices starting at £2.21 for concessions and £10 for adults. A family of four can attend a match during half-term for just £35, though prices will increase in 2021.

Following “unprecedented demand” during its Priority Access Sale, organisers are encouraging fans to apply for a wide selection of matches or use the Powerplay option to have a better chance of seeing their favourite team play.

The ‘Powerplay’ automatically puts fans who missed out on tickets into the ballot for tickets to the same match but in the next price category up. Once all the ballots have been completed, if there are tickets left in a lower price category, Powerplay will automatically allocate any unsuccessful applications with tickets in these categories.

Despite the ongoing pandemic that has kept fans away from sporting events, Lynam remains positive about the event’s selling power. She said: “The reaction from our Rugby League World Cup family and the hosts has been fantastic. We conducted some research during the pandemic which gave us confidence that the consumer propensity to purchase is alive and well, and that’s proved to be correct.

“This time around also sees us launch our first public facing marketing campaign, Squads Assemble. The campaign is built around the inclusivity of RLWC2021 and will appeal to existing and a new ‘squads’ of Rugby League fans.

“With a nod to a tough 2020 for live sport, the aim is to drive passion, excitement and create anticipation for the biggest sporting event in the UK next year. It’s a rallying cry for the UK to get behind the tournament, assemble their squad and giving the nation something to look forward to in 2021, namely live sport with fans in stands.”