In 2021, the eyes of the sporting world will turn to the Tees Valley as the Rugby League World Cup comes to the area in what has been hailed as a major coup for the region and the largest sporting event to come to the area since Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park hosted matches during the FIFA 1966 World Cup.

By exploring historical material in the collections of Middlesbrough Reference Library and Teesside Archives, Manchester Metropolitan University Dr Tosh Warwick has revealed similarities between the two events and a number of potential lessons from history. 

As well as highlighting the opportunities to promote the Tees Valley on a global stage, the Middlesbrough-born historian has revealed an array of cultural benefits, unexpected international friendships and legacies that resulted from the 1966 World Cup.

‘The World Cup Comes to the Tees Valley: The 1966 FIFA World Cup and the 2011 Rugby League World Cup ’is the latest article published by Playing Pasts, the Sports and Leisure History Magazine. The free-to-access, online platform brings together an array of articles, features, news, opinion pieces and reviews from contributors from around the world. 

Dr Tosh Warwick, a Boro season ticket holder, said: “Looking back at the previous World Cup hosted at Ayresome Park reveals similarities with the 2021 event. 

"Just as the Rugby League World Cup offers an opportunity to showcase the ‘Tees Valley’, in the 1960s the FIFA World Cup helped promote the area as one transitioning from its steel manufacturing identity to one with Middlesbrough as the business and retail centre of the new-fangled ‘Teesside’. 

"As well as highlighting some of the benefits of the World Cup coming to the Tees Valley, there are also some lessons from the 1966 tournament including challenging apathy and achieving economic targets.”

More information on Playing Pasts can be found at


There's chances for Boro supporters to get a glimpse of the Rugby League World Cup's major prize as we celebrate our region with Enjoy Tees Valley on Saturday. 

The trophy will be on display at the Club Shop at the stadium - renamed the Captain James Cook Stadium for the day in honour of the legendary Marton-born explorer - ahead of Boro's match against Norwich City, with a limited number of England rugby league adult (£15) and junior (£12) replica shirts on sale. 

More about our Enjoy Tees Valley fixture.

Buy your tickets for Boro v Norwich at the Riverside.