The IRL report on 2020 augurs well for this year's Rugby League World Cup in England ©Getty Images

International Rugby League (IRL) has published is 2020 Annual Report, which an official release says evidences maintained progress despite an almost entire loss of the playing programme.

That augurs well for the quadrennial Rugby League World Cup which is due to take place in England between October 23 October and November 27.

Supporting members through the coronavirus pandemic, which included retaining annual grants, was IRL's priority in 2020.

This "required some financial re-adjustments across the organisation" owing to a "massive reduction of income", said the IRL.

The rollout of the IRL digital platform, the establishment of a series of expert sub-committees, World Anti-Doping Agency recognition of the new IRL anti-doping framework are also all covered by the report.

The 2020 Annual Report shows steady progress despite the COVID-19 pandemic, says International Rugby League ©Getty Images
The 2020 Annual Report shows steady progress despite the COVID-19 pandemic, says International Rugby League ©Getty Images

The Middle East and Africa region's continued its growth - headlined by the addition of two affiliate members for the very first time, Ghana and Nigeria, has also been highlighted, and the region now has 11 members across the three categories; two full members, four affiliates following Cameroon and Morocco’s elevation early in 2021 and five observers.

IRL secretary general Danny Kazandjian commented: "Clearly we have all been affected by and focussed upon the impact of COVID-19 and the welfare of our players, officials and supporters have been uppermost in our minds.

"However, it is really pleasing to note the progress made in areas of the organisation as we strive to raise our standards across all areas.

"The establishment of the expert advisory groups has ensured that the Board has the best available information to assist its decision making.

"These groups are making a real difference and I would like to thank the various members – many of whom are volunteers dedicating many hours - for their work.

"Our digital transformation project continues and is increasingly supporting members across all areas of their administration, in addition to modernising some of our core functions.

"In many ways, the outstanding highlight in 2020 was the manner in which our members met the significant challenges imposed by the pandemic head on; at first dealing with the shock but then wasting no time in educating themselves, reorganising, and in many cases recommencing local championships. 

"They were able to achieve this by their diligent and detailed work and we commend them and thank them for this."

The International Rugby League Annual Report for 2020 can be read in full here.