Australia and New Zealand have pulled out of the Rugby League World Cup because of “player welfare and safety concerns” related to Covid-19.
The men’s, women’s and wheelchair events are scheduled to take place in England this autumn.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have asked organisers if it can be rescheduled for 2022.
NZRL chief Greg Peters said it was “simply too unsafe” to take part.
“The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.
“There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia, and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.
“The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the Covid-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it’s simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over.”
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys added: “Not participating in this year’s World Cup is not a decision the commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority.
“In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.
“We have again requested the IRL and Rugby League World Cup consider postponing the event until 2022 to enable all players to participate.”
About half of Australia’s population has been placed back into lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 cases, with stay-at-home orders now in place in South Australia, Victoria and parts of New South Wales.
That is in sharp contrast to England, with the majority of coronavirus restrictions now lifted.
Organisers only confirmed that the tournament would go ahead earlier this month, although Australia, the holders and 11-time winners, did not sign the participation agreement.
One of the issues previously raised is Covid-19 regulations and quarantine rules for players and staff travelling back to Australia and New Zealand.
Australia’s borders are currently closed, so anyone returning has to spend 14 days in government-managed quarantine.
There are reports that Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) teams want the tournament postponed to next year because those regulations mean players would only return to their clubs two weeks before trial games for the 2022 NRL season begin.
Rugby league officials estimate around 400-500 players, staff and team officials from NRL sides, representing several different countries, would be involved in the World Cup.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby League podcast earlier this month RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton said he was “respectful” of the challenges currently facing Australia and the NRL but was “incredibly confident” they would sign the participation agreement.
He added that cancellation and postponement to 2022 were options but the latter was “significantly unpalatable” with the men’s football World Cup, the women’s European Championships and the Commonwealth Games taking place next year.
A statement from the tournament organisers read: “RLWC2021 note the disappointing statement made by the ARLC and NZRL which may have wide ranging implications for international Rugby League.
“RLWC2021 were informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward. A further statement will be made in due course.”
England fans helped drive up retail sales by 0.5% last month
By SUSANNAH STREETER
The Euros kicked off a spell of celebratory spending as national teams progressed through the tournament, fans splashed the cash on food and alcohol.
Beers, pizza and BBQ treats flew off the shelves, boosting spending in food stores by 4.2%. That marked a turnaround compared to May when the re-opening of indoor dining led to a decline in retail food sales.
The fickle nature of our spending patterns has continued with spending on clothing falling out of fashion again, with volumes down by 4.8%. In many homes it seems the love of football overtook passion for other hobbies in June.
With eyes glued to screens for matches, the love affair with DIY seems to have waned. Household goods stores saw a fall in sales volumes of 10.9% in June although supply chain problems causing a shortage of popular goods on shelves may also be behind the drop compared to May.
Spending overall though on furniture and items for the home is still 15.8% above their pre-pandemic levels, indicating plenty of people are doing up their pads, partly because they still spend so much more time at home.
A new ethical trend of shopping appears to be developing with a rise in spending in charity shops accounting for a large part of the 8.6% growth in other non-food stores. With so many people clearing out pre-loved items, shoppers are going bargain hunting in stores, attracted by the triple benefits of contributing to a good cause, cutting down on waste and saving pounds.
The novelty of browsing in real instead of virtual stores hasn’t yet worn off. The amount of money we spent online fell in June by 4.7% compared with May, with shopping now entwined in our social lives once more.
Other research from the ONS this week showed that in July shoppers have continued to cool down from the hot pace of spending the sector saw in the spring. In the week to 15 July 2021, spending on debit and credit cards fell by 5 percentage points from the previous week, coming in at 92% of the level in February 2020. A fall in social spending is partly behind the drop, with people splashing less cash on restaurants, hotels and air travel.
People are clearly fed up with playing the traffic light guessing game and many have ditched plans for holidays abroad.
Delayable spending on goods like clothing and cars is also at 85% of the level in February 2020, indicating caution is once again becoming the name of the game, as concerns about the spread of new variants rise.
Data indicates that fortunes are looking up a little for the high street as more customers return, partly as football fever has subsided.
The latest ONS economic report highlights Springboard research which shows that high street footfall in the week ending July 17th saw a weekly increase of 3%, its first rise since the beginning of June 2021, creeping back up to 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
But retail parks remain the most popular location to splash the cash. Footfall has bounced back in out of town centres to 99% of levels witnessed before the crisis hit.
Susannah Streeter is a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown
A Darlington engineering group has collapsed into administration in yet another blow to the steel industry.
Around 220 jobs are at risk at Cleveland Bridge, which helped build the Shard skyscraper in London, the Wembley Stadium arch and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It is understood the engineer’s finances were hammered when a major bridge-building project in Sri Lanka was put on hold because of Covid.
Around 220 jobs are at risk at Cleveland Bridge, which helped build the Shard skyscraper in London (pictured), the Wembley Stadium arch and the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Cleveland Bridge, founded in 1877, was in talks with its owner, Saudi Arabian Al-Rushaid Group, to secure an extra £6million of funds but this was unsuccessful.
Martin Puller, a partner at Cleveland’s administrators FRP Advisory, said the company had been ‘a flagbearer for cutting edge British engineering for more than a century’.
The UK’s steel industry has been struggling for years but Covid has put firms under even more pressure.
British Steel went bust in 2019 and Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Steel has been fighting for survival after its main lender Greensill Capital failed.
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‘Time traveller’ claims 7ft aliens will land on Earth next year and spark war
A “time traveller” who claims to be from the year 2491 reckons there will be giant aliens with a”distorted appearance” arriving on Earth in 2022.
The adventurer, who goes by the name “futuretimetraveller” on TikTok, revealed some of the details of the “extraterrestrial species” and bizarrely claimed they will “spark war” with humans.
The video shows a blue sky in the background with large-font captions, which read: “What you call Aliens will make their first appearance on Earth next year.
“The exact date they are first sighted is May 24, 2022.”
The “traveller” then explains that in 2491, there are various types of aliens and the group that live on Earth “as citizens” are called “Nirons”.
Do you believe time travellers exist or are they complete nonsense? Let us know in the comments below
“[They] come in peace and don’t mean harm but the US attack them and begin in the first of many inter-dimensional wars,” they added.
“They are about 7ft 4in and have long shaped skulls, dark grey and distorted appearance. They do not come to be harmful but are extremely dangerous when provoked.”
As with all so-called time travellers, the TikToker provided absolutely zero evidence for his bombastic claims – but that didn’t stop the video being seen more than 94,000 times.
Many viewers were dubious about the theory and they tried to ask for more details about the alien’s arrival.
One said: “So do humans and Nirons procreate and create a new race?”
A second added: “I’m so hooked on your account and scared at the same time.”
“I heard the government is already working with them,” another suggested and the adventurer replied: “I want to tell you because I know but am scared for my own safety.”
“Futuretimetraveller” is not the first TikTok influencer who posts bizarre warnings of events from the future. Another recently made a bonkers claim that there would be pyramids in the sky and warned viewers to “not look up at them” when, or if, his outrageous prediction occurs.
Malaysian police hit on a novel way to dispose of more than 1,000 bitcoin-mining machines seized in raids – they crushed the devices using a steamroller.
Authorities on Borneo island discovered the machines, worth an estimated 5.3 million ringgit (US$1.25 million), in crackdowns between February and April.
Eight people were arrested for allegedly stealing the equivalent of $2 million worth of electricity to power the energy-hungry computers, according to police.
“The crypto-miners stole electricity,” said Hakemal Hawari, a senior police official in the city of Miri, where the devices were seized.
“Their actions are dangerous for life and property, as they can cause power outages.”
The 1,069 mining machines were laid out in the car park of a police station in Miri last week and crushed with a steamroller.
Six of those arrested were convicted of stealing electricity, jailed for six months and fined.
Crypto-mining – the process by which computers mint new virtual currency and validate transactions – requires vast amounts of energy and processing power.
The process typically involves large numbers of sophisticated computers that form a specially designed “rig” that runs the complex calculations required to maintain a cryptocurrency network.
Bitcoin mining is common in the Southeast Asian nation and there are regular reports of police arresting crypto-miners and seizing their rigs. While energy-hungry, the process can be lucrative with each bitcoin now worth more than $32,000.
Bournemouth beachgoer says ‘everyone was groping me in the water’ after teen girl raped
A woman has claimed that she was sexually assaulted at the same part of a beach a teenage girl was allegedly raped at during the weekend.
Dorset Police confirmed on Wednesday that a 15-year-old girl reported she was raped while swimming in the sea at Bournemouth on Sunday, July 18.
And now following the shocking news of the incident, a woman reportedly posted on social media claiming she was a victim of being groped in the sea off Bournemouth a few weeks before.
According to the Daily Mail, she wrote: “I went a few weeks back and everyone was groping me in the water.
“There was hundreds of people and it was people passing me by in the water so I couldn’t really get a good look at them.
“I just kept swimming to other areas. It happened everywhere though and I’m fine.”
The police released an appeal for witnesses to the rape of the 15-year-old girl and revealed the victim was with her friends playing with a ball when it landed in front of a teenage boy on Sunday.
The boy eventually threw it back to one of the group and then began talking to the victim, before pulling her out deeper into the sea where it is reported that he raped her.
A release by Dorset Police said: “The offender told the victim that he was 17 years old and was travelling to Birmingham.
“He is described as possibly of Pakistani descent and with tanned skin, between five feet and five feet seven inches tall and of a thin but muscular build with short dark hair that was pushed back and looked freshly trimmed.”
He was wearing black or grey swimming shorts, the statement added.
Detective Inspector Wayne Seymour, of the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “A full investigation is underway into this incident and we are continuing to support the victim while we carry out enquiries.
“I know that the beach was very busy on the day of the incident so I am appealing to anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed what happened to please come forward.
“Also, I would urge anyone who was on the beach in the vicinity of the Oceanarium to check any photographs or video footage taken to see if they have captured anything of relevance.
“I am particularly keen to speak to anyone who recognises the boy from the description given or may have seen him on the beach on Sunday 18 July.
“This incident will understandably cause concern for the wider community and we would like to remind the public that officers from the local neighbourhood policing team will be carrying out patrols in the area and can be approached with any concerns.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email email@example.com or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55210115587.
Alternatively, to stay 100 per cent anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call Freephone 0800 555 111.