RFL chief outlines seven-year plan

Nigel Wood of the RFL
Nigel Wood of the RFL
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Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood has unveiled a seven-year plan to increase the number of spectators watching the game by 700,000 and for England to win the 2017 World Cup.

Outlining the RFL’s strategy up to 2021, Wood told a media briefing at Super League headquarters in Manchester that he wants to see crowds rise from 2.3million a year to 3million, the game’s turnover to go up from £118million to £146million and an increase in television viewers of 5million to 22million.

Wood has also set a target of acquiring nearly 66,000 participants by 2021, compared to 46,636 now, and wants to see the number of Super League clubs making a profit rise from just three to nine over the next seven years.

Top of the list of objectives, however, is for England to end what would be a 45-year wait by lifting the World Cup in Australia in two years’ time.

“The litmus test for our game is the performance of the national team,” Wood said. “I know it is a brave thing to say but I believe we should set the bar high.”

In the wake of the departure of high-profile players Sam Tomkins and Sam Burgess from Super League, Wood told journalists that the retention of elite talent in the domestic game has become a significant issue for the sport.

He made the case for a marquee player allowance but dismissed calls for an immediate increase in the salary cap, arguing that clubs already have the potential to exceed the £1.85m ceiling.

“There is a case for a marquee rule of some description that will enable clubs to retain talent,” Wood said. “I am sure there will be further discussions on that.

“It is important that the cap grows in relative terms to the growth of the game and it is worth pointing out that, if a club uses all the allowances currently available and wins trophies, it can spend something like £2.5million a year.”

Wood, who is also chairman of the International Federation, says he would like to see the newly expanded World Club Series strengthened further and for Super League clubs gain entry to the annual NRL 9s in Auckland.

Wood met officials of Toulouse during a trip to the south of France last weekend to discuss their interest in joining Catalans Dragons in Super League but admits they would be unlikely to be fast-tracked into the elite division.

“They do want to come in but it is dependent on a viable business plan,” he said.

“We are working with the French Federation to try and deliver the best solution for France.”

Wood revealed England would play an international against the French ahead of the three-match Test series with New Zealand in the autumn.