International Rugby League is the great unlocked potential in sport

21st November 2019, 20:08


International Rugby League is the great unlocked potential in sport

International Rugby League is the great unlocked potential in sport

International Rugby League chief executive officer, Nigel Wood has given an in-depth interview to the IRL Podcast hosted by popular podcast presenter, Michael Carbone from Chasing Kangaroos. The full podcast is available here:








  • “All self-respecting sports should crown world champions”

“The Rugby League World Cup is the second oldest major world cup competition after soccer however it is only in the past 10 years that we have understood and started to fully exploit the opportunities offered by a successful world cup.

“I would like to see a world event every year whether that is a full world cup, an Emerging Nations, a 9s or one of the many world cups for groups such as students, armed forces etc.

“Secondly, every second year we should have regional events. In 2020 we will be running European Championships, Middle East Africa Championship, Oceania Cup and Americas Champion.

“Finally, we still need to leave space for nations to arrange traditional fixtures between themselves.

“That gives us a very strong programme for players, fans and, very importantly, for TV and commercial partners; we have to earn income to invest into growth.”



  • “What are we responsible for?”

“We are responsible for running global competitions. There has to be space for national federations to organise their own tours and games. We love to see international competitions played as often as possible without impinging on the professional and domestic competitions.”

  • “We are re-tendering for RLWC2025 and we will announce before a ball is kicked in RLWC2021”

“We are working with commercial advisers to ensure that the tender is done correctly, and I would rather get the right decision than a quick decision.”

  • “One of our strategic aims is to work in at least two new G7 countries”

“There should be a World 9’s circuit. A well-organised 9s circuit supports the opening up new territories. Clearly there are some exciting developments in North America. We are also in active discussion with the Middle East to understand those markets.

North America is clearly of great interest and we also have a long-established presence in France which presents a further opportunity.”

  • “Most people would prefer that international matches are refereed by the best qualified match official”

“Neutrality would be the second consideration, where we can achieve the best qualified and neutrality then we will be in a good position.

“International Rugby League is in the process of appointing a match official manager, a part of whose role will be to ensure that we have a wider pool of well-qualified match officials ready to control matches and will make the appointments independently.”

  • “Membership of GAISF is an enabler”

“Membership is long overdue and is important because when a national federation speaks to its own national government almost their first question is ‘which world body recognises you as a sport?’.

“GAISF is one of those bodies and to gain membership one criteria is to have 40 member nations. However, there is a chicken and egg situation in that we sometimes struggle to show a national federation without recognition from GAISF!”

“To be candid, the situation in Greece is one of the most ridiculous that I have seen in my career”

“The IRL is not established to manage national federations and has no wish to do so, however we spend a bit too much time in assisting the resolution of disputes in member nations. and it takes up valuable time to seek a resolution, but it is also an important function of a high-quality international federation.

  • “The reality is the IRL is a quite young and has only had any full-time staff for the past four years – we are catching up with where we should be.”

“An example of where we are struggling to catch up is the rate of growth of the women’s game. Which is why we have taken the decision to organise a Women’s Emerging Nations in 2021 - in 2018 it hardly existed.”

  • “All sport is improved by having a vibrant international dimension”

“International Rugby League has a strong relationship with all of our federations. We can attract new eyeballs and commercial interest which benefits the national federations and the professional competitions.”

“We should pay tribute to the NRL, the RFL and the NZRL because in the absence of a powered up international federation they took on a responsibility for promoting international competition. There has to be a transition period and we are in that now.”

  • “The grand puzzle currently has an international window in mid-season and one immediately after the two Grand Finals. We have to work collaboratively with the major leagues to achieve the optimum calendar. International Rugby League is good for players and for clubs.”


  • “We should celebrate the success of the Pacific.”

“We have to work out how to develop local players in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France to bolster the international game in the Northern Hemisphere, but nations have to take responsibility for their own performance. We cannot be responsible for everything. 

  • “We are seeking to have at least eight fully-fledged contenders for every world cup.”




For PR and media requests please contact:

Niel Wood