The Rugby Football League (RFL) and the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) have confirmed that the Australia tour to England at the end of 2023 has been cancelled.
It had been speculated for a while that the tour would be another sporting casualty of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The tour included three Test Matches where the Kangaroos would face England.
These matches were scheduled to take place at the University of Bolton Stadium on October 31, Elland Road in Leeds on November 7, and at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on November 14.
Fans who had tickets for those games can claim a credit for a ticket to attend any major rugby league event in 2023 or 2021 (including the Rugby League World Cup 2021).
Alternatively, they can claim a full refund for the tickets.
Both the RFL and the ARLC have stated unequivocally that they remain committed to reviving Ashes tours, and talks have turned towards possibly rescheduling the tour for 2022.
The Rugby League World Cup is set to take place in England in 2021, which would preclude the tour taking place next year.
The cancellation of the tour will have a significant impact on the financial health of rugby league as a whole in England too.
“It will have a considerable impact on the finances of Rugby League here in England, as we were banking on a significant boost from Australia’s first full tour since 2003,” Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the RFL, said.
“But as I have said regularly to all parts of the game since the seriousness of the situation became clear, we are all going to have to make sacrifices, and financial adjustments – and we should stress again our gratitude to the Government for the significant support they provided at the start of May, which will help us to deal with this major setback.
“We have already indicated to the ARLC that we would be keen to welcome them for a three-Test series at any time in the future and will now work together to make this happen as soon as possible.”
An Ashes Tour has not taken place in rugby league since 2003, when the Kangaroos played six matches on tour, including three Test Matches against Great Britain.
Since then the Tri Nations and subsequently Four Nations tournaments have taken over.
Great Britain has also been split into its constituent nations, making the Ashes a slightly different concept from the way it was in the past.
Andrew Abdo, the interim CEO of the NRL, also expressed Australian disappointment that the tour was no longer taking place.
“It is disappointing that the historic Kangaroos tour to the UK can no longer take place in 2023,” he said.
“We look forward to the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and hopefully a tour to the UK by the Kangaroos in a future season.”
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