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3 days ago
The Emerging nations will be the biggest beneficiaries from the cash windfall generated by the overwhelming success of the inaugural Gillette Tri-Nations Series.
Organisers were surprised by the popularity of the triangular tournament and, after budgeting conservatively following the heavy losses sustained by the 2000 World Cup, are set to cash in on bumper crowds.
Gate receipts and corporate revenue from a combined attendance for the seven matches of 182,313 well exceeded targets and some estimates put overall profits at around the ?2million mark.
Richard Lewis, executive chairman of the Rugby Football League which organised the event, said the profits - which would not be known for some weeks - would be split between the International Federation and the governing bodies of the three participating nations.
"A million-pound figure would be misleading but it has been a profitable tournament and I think the biggest beneficiary will be the International Federation because it has re-established their finances on a sound footing," said Lewis.
"They can invest in the international game and that is something we will see the fruits of in the future as we plan and invest for the World Cup in 2008. It's important to expand the international game.
"It's the first year in which really significant funds have come into the International Federation coffers since 2000."
That is likely to be good news for countries like Samoa, where rugby league almost went out of existence after being saddled with debt instead of enjoying anticipated profits from the last World Cup.
Papua New Guinea and Tonga will also receive a helping hand while, in the northern hemisphere, Russia, Georgia and Holland will be among the beneficiaries.
Georgia, who were given broadcast access to Saturday's final, are being lined up to enter the 2005 European Nations Cup.
Lewis said the RFL also expected to receive spin-offs from the Tri-Nations as they attempt to fill the void created by Tetley's withdrawal as main sponsors of Super League.
"The game is in very good health," he said. "It's growing and we deliver very good value for money for sponsors.
"Gillette are absolutely delighted with the tournament. It has exceeded their expectations and they have indicated they would like to be in it for the long term. That's the message that will go around the corporate world.
"We've had a lot of interest and entertained a lot of companies during the Tri-Nations to show rugby league at its best and everyone has been impressed."
The manner of Britain's crushing 44-4 defeat in a disappointingly one-sided final has almost certainly ended any prospect of Australia hosting the Tri-Nations in 2005.
The series is likely to return to England but on a scaled-down format as the International Federation bow to pressure from Australian clubs and their players over the threat of "burn-out".
"I felt before the final that it is was highly likely that we would be able to play the tournament again in England in 2005 and I still think that's the case," said Lewis. "I certainly think that's the right thing to do.
"The final was very disappointing after all the expectation but I don't think in the overall scheme of things that the defeat will have made a huge amount of difference to the issues.
"The fundamentals weren't changed, the tournament was a massive success. It captured the imagination not just of the rugby league fans but sports fans around the country.
"I have no doubt that the media profile was raised quite significantly and I think, when we get those hard facts and feedback from TV and sponsors, that the case is going to be very strong to hold it again in Britain next year."