Leigh fan Jon Dutton leads the way for next World Cup

31 Mar 2020 01:01
Published by: Daniel Almond

A LIFELONG love affair with rugby league which started after being taken to watch Leigh as a child has led to Jon Dutton being the man overseeing preparations for next year's World Cup.

The RLWC2021 chief executive grew up watching the likes of Des Drummond and John Woods from the terraces of the club's former Hilton Park home, witnessing the Leythers' 1982 title triumph and the visit of the all-conquering Australian tourists in the same year.

Now in his 42nd season supporting Leigh, Dutton still goes with his family to watch them in the Championship at the Sports Village - one of the venues which will play host to next year's global gathering.

"My dad took me when I was five years old and I grew up watching Leigh at Hilton Park," Dutton says. "I can still remember Leigh winning what has now become Super League way back in 1982 and I love the sport.

"I always wanted to play professionally, but I was never good enough or brave enough, so I guess my job now is not a bad second option to have. The sport has played a massive part in my life and I'm privileged to be doing the job I am.

"For me, this is a great opportunity to celebrate some of the great moments I've had in sport. The athletes are just remarkable and we've got a great chance to put them on a global stage, and for it not to just be about the men's elite athletes."

Leigh Sports Village is one of 21 venues which the men's, women's and wheelchair World Cups will be played at when the respective tournaments get underway in October 2021.

While 80 per cent of matches will be played in the North of England, places such as Coventry's Ricoh Arena, plus the Emirates Stadium and the Copper Box Arena in London - which will host a men's semi-final and the wheelchair competition respectively - will be utilised too.

Closer to rugby league's heartlands places more associated with football like Middlesbrough and Newcastle will host matches as well, the latter hosting the opening match between England and Samoa at St James' Park - a regular venue for Super League's Magic Weekend.

Next year will mark the first time the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments will take place alongside each other, while nations such as first-time qualifiers Brazil, Norway, Greece and Jamaica will add an extra dimension across all three.

"One of the very early decisions was to stage the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments together on the same platform at the same time, which is something which has never been done before," Dutton said.

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