Newcastle’s St James’ Park has scored an economic result for the region after landing the Rugby League World Cup opening game, according to business and sporting experts.
The home of Newcastle United will host the opening ceremony on October 23, proving a coup for the city and the North East.
The event builds on the success of the four Rugby League Magic Weekends held at the ground between 2015 and 2018, with crowds of up to 64,000 attending over the two days.
But, while fans will be celebrating, it is the city – and wider region – set to reap the economic benefits.
Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland, said: “Sports events are massively important to the UK economy.
“The Olympics in 2012 was seen as a key component in preventing a sliding economic position then and the World Cup in 2018 provided a real boost to many sectors who were able to contribute to the wave of ‘feel-good’ from England’s strong performance.
“On a local level then, sporting events full to capacity, with happy attendees spending their money on replica kits, local transport, hospitality and accommodation all make a critical contribution to the economy of the towns and cities they are housed within.
“So for a venue to bag a major tournament is a real result for a city and Newcastle hosting the opening ceremony and curtain-raiser match for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 can only be a good thing.
“The international profile will bring fresh money in and successfully delivered events can really help to raise the profile of a city as a destination for other activities to follow. Being a great host and marketing the fullest range that it can provide is critical to capitalise upon this great opportunity.”
Sporting experts from the University were also positive about the announcement.
Eddie Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics, said: “The award of the opening games to Newcastle and games at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough builds on the growing reputation of the North East for hosting high calibre rugby.
“In May, Newcastle is already hosting the European Professional Club Rugby Union finals weekend, including the Heineken Champions Cup Final at St James’ Park, and has experience of the big games, having hosted three Rugby World Cup 2015 games including the eventual winners New Zealand.
“Fans will be able to see the best Rugby League players from around the globe and they will be treated to the amazing atmosphere usually displayed by the passionate North East sports fans.
“Hosting the opening games will provide a focal point for the region with all the rugby league eyes on the area. England U20 and Women’s International Six Nations games have also been held in the region and the All Blacks used Rockliffe Hall as a training base during the 2015 World Cup.”
The Rugby League say the 2021 event is set to be the most inclusive rugby league event ever, RLWC2021 will see the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments played concurrently for the first time.
Another UK first will see the women’s and men’s finals take place as a double-header at Old Trafford, and further west, Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena Liverpool will host the wheelchair final.