It's been revealed this morning that the borough has been selected to host three men’s group matches at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
Organisers are aiming to draw in record crowds at the 2021 tournament - tipped to be the biggest one yet - which is expected to boost St Helens’ economy by around £3.6m, and benefit the grassroots game through legacy projects.
This morning St Helens Council Leader Derek Long was among those in attendance at a launch event in Manchester to hear Saints’ 18,000 capacity Totally Wicked Stadium - considered by many to be the best purpose-built club rugby stadium in the country – confirmed as one of 16 host venues, following over 75 applications from towns and cities across the country.
The council, together with Saints, officially submitted the borough’s host bid in July 2018 during half-time of Saints’ nail-biting 14-12 win over Warrington Wolves, with organisers highly commending St Helens’ claim at each stage of the bidding leading up to today’s successful announcement.
Welcoming the news, St Helens Council Leader Derek Long said: “Rugby League is in the DNA of St Helens which is why I made successfully bidding to be a host venue a priority in my very first week in office as leader.
“Hosting Australia against Fiji in 2013 showed the world how welcoming St Helens is as a host for a major sporting event and now that we’ve secured three matches – two more than last time - we hope to see even more people visit the borough in 2021.
“The economic impact and community benefits that can be obtained are equally as important as the hosting of matches and this great news will now allow us to get on with maximising the overall benefit.
“England will be in this tournament to win it and I think the entire borough will be with me in backing that effort.”
Eamon McManus, chairman of both St Helens R.F.C. and the St Helens Economy Board, added:
“This is a huge statement of the ambition and status of both the borough of St Helens and of its world famous rugby league blub, which benefit in equal measure. The Saints are the principal ambassador for our town and hosting three games for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is a testament both to the club and to the Invest in St Helens programme, of which we are a major supporter.”
RLWC2021 Chief Executive, Jon Dutton, said: “St Helens is a rugby league stronghold and we’re incredibly excited to be bringing the pinnacle of the men’s game to the town through the Rugby League World Cup 2021.
“With fantastic facilities and a community that has rugby league at its heart, we have awarded St Helens three men’s group games and look forward to developing a plan around the community adopting a team and bringing this to life through as vibrant local legacy programme”.
Initial discussions with tournament organisers resulted in the possibility of the borough also hosting a team throughout the duration of the World Cup, using Ruskin Drive Sports Village and Saints’ training base at Cowley Language College as training bases. A decision on this is yet to be made.
The news will also be announced locally during half-time of Thursday evening’s Super League season opener between Saints and Wigan Warriors at the Totally Wicked Stadium, which is expected to be a sell-out.