Rugby League World Cup legacy for Bolton

From Jamaica to the Cook Islands, the eyes of the sporting world will be on Bolton.

Ahead of the Rugby League World Cup clash tomorrow, leader of Bolton Council talks about the impact the match will have tomorrow and in the future.

“After years of hard work, tomorrow the excitement and fast-paced action of a live Rugby League World Cup game comes to Bolton at last.

From Jamaica to the Cook Islands, the eyes of the sporting world will be on a packed University of Bolton Stadium as we showcase the very best of our borough to a global audience.

On the back of impressive wins in their first group games I am sure both the England and France teams will put on a thrilling contest across the 80 minutes. But for Bolton, our rugby league journey will not end at tomorrow’s final whistle. In fact, it has only just started.

When Bolton Council first decided to bid to host the Rugby League World Cup, we wanted to achieve two things: To leave a lasting sporting legacy for the tournament and to further cement our growing reputation as the ideal place to hold major international events.

One of our top priorities as a council is the regeneration taking place across the borough. From Farnworth Town Centre to the Bolton College of Medical Sciences and from The Octagon Theatre to Moor Lane, hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested in creating jobs, building homes, and making our borough a more modern, vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit. Our annual events calendar is an essential part of these plans, boosting the local economy and bringing more people into our town. IRONMAN, the Food and Drink Festival and the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay have already show Bolton has the infrastructure, transport links and experience to host events of any scale. Now the Rugby League World Cup has put Bolton on the international stage when it comes to hosting more events in the future.

But regeneration goes beyond buildings and infrastructure, it also means investing in people and supporting them to live healthier and more active lives. In order to do that, we are working closely with our community sports groups and grassroots clubs. Already we have seen a new £300,000 club house for Westhoughton Lions delivered through a RLWC grant. We have also invested time and effort in giving young people the chance to try the sport, many of them for the first time. Through our Festival of Rugby League, a series of community events, school activities and our Holiday Activities and Food programme, thousands of young people have been inspired to get active and take up rugby league.

Some have questioned why Bolton would want to host this world cup and it is true that we cannot boast the same rugby league heritage of some of our neighbours. But how many in Bolton had heard of Ironman before we hosted our first event in 2009?

More than a decade since and our borough has become a hotbed for triathlon participation. Club membership is among the highest in the country and every year the Ironkids event serves as an introduction to the next generation of athletes. Ironman continues to have a positive impact, not only on our local economy but on the physical and mental wellbeing of our residents. I have no doubt we can do the same with rugby league.

Later this year, Bolton Libraries and Museum Service will launch its ‘Sportstown’ exhibition, telling the story of our many home-grown sporting achievements.

This will inevitably feature greats like Sir Jason Kenny and Sir Nat Lofthouse, as well grassroots sporting heroes who all personify Bolton’s determination and ambition.

This year’s Rugby League World Cup will form an important new item in the Sportstown exhibition, and I am certain rugby league starts from Bolton will feature prominently in similar exhibitions in years to come.

See you all at the game.

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