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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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'Too early to move World Cup games from Whitehaven' says RFL

Whitehaven's under-threat £5.5 million community sports stadium is still being backed as a venue for the Rugby League World Cup in 2013 – but contingencies have been put in place in case of disaster.

Related: Shock cash demand puts RL World Cup game in Whitehaven at risk

The planned project was thrown in to doubt when Recreation Ground landlords Whitehaven Miners Social Welfare upped the ante at the last moment by demanding £750,000 to allow access via their road to the Pow Beck site. It meant last Friday’s deadline for completing a deal was missed.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) has allocated the proposed stadium two matches in the tournament, to be broadcast around the world. And it is keeping faith that a deal can be struck.

“The local authority has kept us appraised what has been going on and we will do what we can to make the stadium happen,” said a spokesman for the RFL, the sport’s governing body.

“There are contingencies in place for every venue in the Rugby League World Cup, but it’s too early to think about moving games.

“We still expect to stage the Rugby League World Cup 2013 at the Pow Beck stadium next year.”

It is understood all the funding for the stadium is now in place and tenders evaluated. An agreement with the Miners is the only remaining stumbling block.

Partners in the project – Whitehaven Rugby League, Whitehaven Amateurs Football Club, Copeland Council and Britain’s Energy Coast – are pressing ahead with talks. But time is short as World Cup fixtures will be unveiled on Thursday next week.

Project partners had already agreed, it is believed, to spend £280,000 on the Miners’ land between Coach Road and the Recreation Ground entrance.

But there are no plans to give the Miners group an additional £750,000 out of the budget, which could mean the project was cut back.

Barry Richardson, chief executive of Whitehaven Rugby League Club, declined to discuss figures but urged that the Miners group be reasonable.

And he warned that the World Cup would be lost to Copeland if an agreement was not reached.

“The Rugby League World Cup will bring extra revenue to Copeland. The stadium is critical to the future of Whitehaven RL and the town. It’s very much a community stadium and could hold pop concerts and other events.”

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