Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Prince Harry and Rugby League - my sport - beef on the bone

Prince Harry to make Rugby League World Cup draw as planned

Duke of Sussex to conduct proceedings at Buckingham Palace in role as sport’s patron
Prince Harry is presented with a personalised Leeds Rhinos shirt in his early days as patron of the Rugby Football League
 Prince Harry is presented with a personalised Leeds Rhinos shirt in his early days as patron of the Rugby Football League. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA
Prince Harry’s first public engagement since announcing that he and Meghan are to step back from their royal duties is to go ahead as planned on Thursday, when he conducts the draw for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup at Buckingham Palace with restricted media access.
The organisers of the competition, which takes place in England in 2021, have been given assurances that the Duke of Sussex, in his role as patron of the Rugby Football League, will be at Buckingham Palace as scheduled.
The Guardian understands, however, that the World Cup organisers have been told that the BBC, in its role as the host broadcaster of the tournament, will be the only sport media outlet granted access to the palace.
Other sports reporters will be hosted at an event in Manchester, where the draw will be streamed live.
It was announced on Monday that Dave Woods, the BBC’s rugby league correspondent, and the presenter Seema Jaswal will host the event, but any questions about Harry’s ongoing discussions with the royal family over his role will be off-limits.
The royal rota is still expected to cover the event, despite the Sussexes indicating on their website that they wanted to change the way they engage with the media beyond the rota. It is also understood that the BBC had asked for an interview with the prince several weeks ago when his appearance was announced, but the request was turned down.
Harry’s presence, announced on the Twitter accounts of the Rugby League World Cup and the royal family, affords the sport a golden opportunity to propel itself into the mainstream media. With the event arranged long before last week’s statement, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, Ralph Rimmer, admitted there would be unexpected benefits on Thursday.
“In light of everything that has happened recently, we’re honoured that he will make the draw,” Rimmer said at a media event in Huddersfield. “He’s been a superb patron for us. Of course there will be the eyes and ears of the world’s media on that event and I suppose the event will benefit from that.”
Harry has been the RFL’s patron since mid-2017, and Rimmer expects him to continue in the role irrespective of what happens to his royal duties. “I’m very hopeful,” he said. “From what I know, I think his patronages will remain, but that could change. We haven’t had anything negative from the palace or his office regarding our patronage, but there are plenty of wheels turning in the machine at this moment in time.”