In what has been hailed as a resounding success for cross-party co-operation, the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group has today received confirmation that the North West Development Agency has agreed to honour its financial commitments to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
The tournament, to be played across England and Wales, will see games taking place in a number of regions, including several in the north west of England. But since the announcement that Regional Development Agencies are to be abolished, the Government instructed these public bodies to reduce spending, including invoking any break clauses in contracts. This lead to the NWDA threatening to withdraw previously agreed funding, putting games in the region in jeopardy.
“The 2013 Rugby League World Cup is the first international tournament to take place in Britain after the 2012 London Olympics and provides opportunity to grow the sporting legacy of the Games and to ensure that people of all ages continue to take part in sport throughout the UK”; said Group Vice-Chairman Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West. “Members of the Group, led by those in the north west have leading the charge in what has been an excellent demonstration of the Group working together.”
As well as Questions in Parliament, Members of Parliament wrote to the Agency, making clear their concerns and asking the NWDA to reconsider honouring their agreements made with the Rugby Football League as tournament organiser
One of the MPs whose constituents were affected is Group Secretary, Derek Twigg, Member of Parliament for Halton. On receiving the letter from the NWDA, he said: “On behalf of the Group, I wrote to the NWDA Chairman stressing that any decision to reduce or remove funding would have significant implications for the north west region that they serve and making clear that as one of the final major decisions the agency would have to take, a decision to remain committed to the World Cup would leave a significant lasting impression on the region. I’m delighted they’ve decided to continue supporting the tournament and I think it’s absolutely the right choice.”
One MP that had been particularly vocal in Parliament is David Mowat, Member of Parliament for Warrington South who asked questions of his Government-bench colleague, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.
“The Government committed themselves to ensuring the successful delivery of the World Cup, but my concern has always been that those of us in the north west would suffer through a nuance of one of the Government’s cost cutting measures. Independent studies have shown that the tournament will generate significant economic input for the region so it always seemed foolish to break an agreement of this scale. The NWDA have made the right choice, and I am looking forward to seeing the Halliwell Jones Stadium play host to some outstanding test matches.”
The Group remains resolute in its support to the World Cup and will continue to work with the RFL and all Government bodies to ensure that a successful, world-class tournament goes ahead and is enjoyed by millions in the UK and overseas.