The tournament that got everyone talking: the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup
November has certainly been a thrilling time for international sport. From the Red Roses Rugby World Cup Final clash with the Black Ferns, to England Men’s success in the T20 Cricket World Cup, our eyes have been glued to the screen. Amongst all this excitement though, there is one tournament that seems to have got everyone talking: the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.
We think it is fair to say that until last month not many sports fans knew all that much about Wheelchair Rugby league, let alone how brutal the sport can be, or the names of the incredible athletes who play it. Yet in the past few weeks the tournament has taken the rugby world by storm, prompting so much engagement from rugby legends and casual fans alike that the competition began trending on Twitter.
So, how has the tournament’s success come about? Certainly, the quality of the product itself, the skill of the players and the great performances they have put on, must take the bulk of the credit, however the presentation of the tournament has also been game changing.
It is no secret that men’s sport has historically received the most investment, highest marketing budget, best broadcasting slots, and unsurprisingly the highest viewing figures.
However recent tournaments have shown that there is a clear way to narrow this once seemingly insurmountable gap. The Hundred, for example, showed just how big the appetite for women’s sport can be when it’s presented equally to its male counterpart. Indeed, the Hundred is believed to have brought 4.9m new viewers to women’s cricket – the second most new viewers of any women’s sport.
The Rugby League World Cup has followed this model, presenting both women’s and wheelchair rugby league in line with the men’s tournament, to incredible success. This success has also been amplified by the tournament being broadcast free to air on BBC2, which has allowed access to new fans who may not otherwise have given it a go.
This is not to say that women’s sport or wheelchair sport viewership has yet reached parity with the men’s game, however we are certainly moving in the right direction at quite a pace!
As a charity supporting children and young people with disabilities, we are delighted to see wheelchair rugby gaining popularity and inspiring the younger generation.