NEP Connect involved in the most inclusive world cup in Rugby League history!
This weekend concluded the men’s, women’s, and wheelchair Rugby League World Cups. Fans had to wait an extra year for the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the tournament will leave an impact that lasts generations! The tournament has been ground-breaking, combining the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions into a single concurrent schedule. This schedule saw all the men’s and women’s teams making it all the way to the semi-finals, losing to Samoa and New Zealand, respectively. Australia went on to win both the men's and women's trophies, whilst the English wheelchair side managed to go all the way, beating France in the final in what was a successful tournament both on and off the pitch.
Working with Timeline TV OB, WhisperTV and Telegenic OB, the coverage is so extensive that all 61 games across the men’s, women’s and wheelchair formats were available to watch all around the world, with live match action being broadcast or streamed to 22 territories and totalling more than 150 countries. NEP Connect supplied the host and world feed for all these games. This was the first time in Rugby League World Cup history that all games were broadcasted live on free-to-air UK television, with all the games appearing on the BBC and iPlayer.
This is vastly different from when Great Britain won the 1972 Rugby League World Cup. The British Lions became world champions in front of 4,200 people in the Stade de Gerland in Lyon – a stadium which holds 35,000. The tournament hadn't been shown live on television and when the victorious British team had returned home a few days later and they still hadn’t received their winners' medals. Today Rugby League is in a much better place, with this year’s Super League Grand Final being played in front of some 60,000 at Manchester United FC’s Old Trafford.
With every match on a BBC platform, albeit iPlayer or a BBC channel, the world cup reached a wider audience than ever before. 1.8 million viewers tuned in for the England’s tournament opener,compared to a regular weekend of Super League fixtures, where a figure of 300,000 viewers would be considered good. All the men’s, women’s and wheelchair matches have been pushing viewing figures similar domestic rugby league fixtures in the country – a positive sign for the women’s and wheelchair game especially. The TV buzz around the tournament has seen rugby league find a place in other regular programming - breakfast shows, news bulletins, etc. This has all made this Rugby League World Cup arguably the most notable in history.
Between the tournament kicking off at St James’ Park (Newcastle United FC) on 15 October and concluding at Old Trafford on 19 November, the tournament took Rugby League to 18 different venues across England, visiting some of the country’s most iconic sporting venues. History was created when the Emirates (Arsenal FC) hosted one of the men’s semi-finals, the first time the venue has hosted a non-football sporting event. NEP Connect’s relationship with the Premier League and Football League created an ease in providing connectivity, as many of the grounds used during the tournament were already within NEP Connect’s Anylive Network.