Legal action: Should PNG have hosted World Cup games?

A legal fight has erupted over the validity of Papua New Guinea staging pool matches in last year's World Cup, which has prompted the Rugby League International Federation to launch court action against the tournament promoters.

Fairfax Media understands the federation is seeking a figure in excess of half a million dollars from IMG, which is arguing the original contract signed between the parties back in 2011 didn't cater for a 13th venue outside of Australia and New Zealand for the 2017 tournament.

The federation is alleging IMG has since withheld a significant fee from the international game's governing body and will try to recover that in NSW Supreme Court proceedings from next month.

Papua New Guinea proved one of the success stories of the tournament, playing all their group games at Port Moresby's National Football Stadium in front of fanatical sold-out crowds, beating Wales, Ireland and the United States to progress to the quarter-finals.

Eventually bundled out by runners-up England in the quarter-finals in Melbourne, Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world that boasts rugby league as its national sport.

But now there is a feud over whether they should have been forced to play all their matches in Australia rather than the logistically challenging exercise of having the Port Moresby venue massaged to host World Cup games.

Given international rugby league's precarious position as it tries to capitalise on the momentum of the World Cup, the federation will be desperate to recover what it believes is owed to it to reinvest in the sport.

Relations between World Cup organisers and IMG were obviously strained by the time officials expressed disappointment the promoters couldn't secure radio rights within Australia for the sport's international showpiece.

Several commercial stations and the ABC baulked at broadcasting the tournament, won by Australia in a gripping final, because of clashes with its summer sporting content, including the Ashes.

A deal for SBS digital radio to pick up the World Cup rights for a small fee also fell over just 48 hours out from the tournament.

But it still proved a hit on TV screens across Australia, rating strongly on the Seven Network, which provided a point of difference to longtime NRL rights holders Nine and Fox Sports.

The row between the federation and IMG, who were also charged with promoting the 2013 event in the United Kingdom and France, is a spin-off from a successful tournament in the southern hemisphere, which rode a wave of momentum created by Pacific countries such as Tonga and Fiji.

Both reached the final four and Tonga, in particular, benefited from the 11th-hour defections of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita to play for the emerging powerhouse.

The federation is embarking on a shift at the top with its longtime chairman and Rugby Football League chief executive to replace David Collier as the head of the body's executive.

Inaugural Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant will assume Wood's role as federation chairman. Grant is due to step down from the commission next month.

The pair are pushing for a historic mid-season Test between England and New Zealand to be played in the United States in June, which could face opposition from NRL clubs reluctant to release their international stars despite the standalone State of Origin weekend.

The federation will continue to tap into the North American market on the back of the Toronto Wolfpack's success and before the World Cup is staged there in 2025.

This story Legal action: Should PNG have hosted World Cup games? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.