Rugby League: Sponsor's relocation no threat to World Cup

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The Independent Online
WORLD CUP organisers are confident that next year's tournament will be unaffected by the decision of the sponsors to pull out of Britain, writes Dave Hadfield. The Lincoln Financial Group, which is backing the 16-team competition with a package worth more than pounds 1m, is closing down its British operation.

Their retrenchment to their home market in the United States comes as they are being obliged to put aside huge sums of money to cover possible claims for the mis-selling of pensions in the 1980s and inevitably raises fears over rugby league's most ambitious event.

"Lincoln are still committed to the sponsorship," the World Cup marketing director, Neal Coupland, said. "In the worse case scenario, we might have to rename the tournament if the company was sold as a going concern. Even if Lincoln's money disappeared now, it is still only 10 per cent of our revenue and the World Cup would still be safe."

Ellery Hanley will look to his new arrivals to fill the gaps left by injuries to the shining lights of the Grand Final in a match he would rather not be playing. "I personally wouldn't have played this particular game," the St Helens coach of said of his side's trip trip to Wigan on Boxing Day. "A number of players will be missing from the game because they had close-season operations." Those who will miss the match at the JJB stadium include Kieron Cunningham, Anthony Sullivan, Paul Newlove, Kevin Iro and Vila Matautia.

Wigan are preparing to offer their captain, Andy Farrell, the biggest contract in the club's history to keep him after his current deal expires at the end of next season. Farrell has been the subject of interest from clubs in Australia.