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Equality for all: $3.5m set aside so every 2021 World Cup player gets paid

Organisers of the 2021 World Cup in England have set aside a $3.5 million funding pot to provide equal payments to every player and prizemoney for the women’s and wheelchair tournaments for the first time.

With the game’s 16th World Cup now just two years away, RLWC2021 organisers have revealed:

  •  female and wheelchair players will also receive participation payments for the first time;
  • they will be equal to payments for players in the men’s tournament, and;
  • the standard of accommodation, transport and training facilities will be the same across the tournaments.

A further announcement will be made later this month about the scheduling of women’s matches to bring turn-around times closer to those enjoyed by men’s teams.

The six teams at the 2017 Women’s World Cup played matches three days apart and a similar schedule was in place for 2021 pool matches at Anfield, Headingley and York but organisers have agreed to make changes.

RLWC2021, which comprises of a 16-nation men’s tournament played concurrently with eight-team women’s and wheelchair tournaments over a five-week period from October 23, 2021 until the November 27 final at Old Trafford, is being billed as the biggest and the best since the concept began in 1954.

It will also be the most inclusive, with RLWC2021 CEO Jon Dutton telling players at last weekend’s World Cup 9s they would receive equal payments and conditions in England.

Players from the six women's teams at the 2017 World Cup.
Players from the six women's teams at the 2017 World Cup. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

“From a participation fee perspective, it is absolutely equal so men and women will get exactly the same,” Dutton said.

“Wheelchair will get exactly the same on a pro-rata basis because there are less players per team but if you divide that by the number of players in a squad it will be equal across the board.”

A total of 21 countries are expected to be involved across the three tournaments, including Jamaica (men’s), Brazil (women’s) and Norway (wheelchair).

Nations confirmed so far are:

  • Men: Australia, England, Fiji, France, Jamaica, Lebanon, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Wales;
  • Women: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cook Islands, England, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and;
  • Wheelchair: Australia, England, France, Norway, Scotland, Spain, USA, Wales.

With up to 16 nations expressing interest in entering women’s teams in an Emerging Nations World Cup, it is likely that a formal qualifying process will be in place for the 2025 World Cup.

The final five places at the men’s World Cup will be determined next month, with two of Greece, Scotland or Serbia, two of Ireland, Italy or Spain, and the winner of the Cook Islands-USA match in Florida to qualify.

Tournament officials don’t pay the players directly but will include a clause in the participation agreements for competing nations requiring them to pass on a minimum payment to their players.

There will be a revised participation agreement for all competing nations that includes player welfare, codes of conduct and the fulfilment of commercial obligations.

“Our board have worked hard with colleagues at the IRL and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) to secure this positive and ground-breaking decision and we’re delighted with the outcome," Dutton said.

“One of our core values as a tournament is inclusivity and we believe that our revised agreements showcase our determination to ensure we celebrate this in 2021.”

One of our core values as a tournament is inclusivity.

Jon Dutton

Each country is able to top up payments to their players but the move ends the disparity at the 2017 World Cup in which members of the winning Australian team received $50,000 each and their Tongan counterparts earned $500.

Prizemoney for the men’s tournament will also increase by 125% from the 2017 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, while women and wheelchair teams will receive prizemoney for the first time.

“It will be proportionate,” Dutton said. “The men’s prize fund is bigger because of the number of teams and number of rounds that take place but there was no prize fund for women or wheelchair so all of that is absolutely brand new.”

The announcement of equal payments for all players at the 2021 World Cup comes after revealed each member of the 12 men’s and four women’s teams at last weekend’s World Cup 9s would receive a $2000 participation payment.

Pay parity has also been introduced for the Oceania Cup, featuring Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, with organisers paying each player $2500 per Test.

To fulfil their ambitions for the 2021 World Cup, tournament organisers are aiming to sell 40% of tickets to event goers rather than traditional league fans.

While tickets do not go on sale until after the draw is announced midway through next year, other indicators suggest the tournament is tracking well in comparison to previous World Cups.

In the eight years since England last hosted the World Cup, the level of UK government funding has increased from GBP1 million to GBP25 million, while all 61 matches at the 2021 tournament will be broadcast on the BBC compared to seven of 28 matches in 2013.

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