Rugby League chiefs ‘want Prince William to take over’ Harry’s beloved union patronages

Rugby League chiefs want Prince William to take over Harry’s beloved patronages and become the face of this year’s World Cup, according to reports.

Prince William is said to be the current favourite to take up the role having previously worked alongside the league’s current chairman Simon Johnson.

It comes after Harry was stripped of his honorary roles as patron of both England Rugby Union and Rugby Football League on Friday after he and Meghan Markle stepped down as working royals.

Buckingham Palace later announced that the couple’s patronages would be returned to the Queen before being re-distributed among remaining working royals – including Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Anne.

Rugby League chiefs want Prince William to take over Harry’s beloved patronages and become the face of this year’s World Cup, according to reports (the brothers pictured together at the 2015 Rugby World Cup)

The Duke of Sussex had held the role of patron with the Rugby Football League since July 2017 and even hosted the draw for the tournament at Buckingham Palace in January.

But it is now understood that Prince William will be given the patronage to maintain the sport’s royal credentials ahead of the World Cup which is being hosted across the north of England in October and November.

It is expected to be the first mass spectator event following the potential lifting of the coronavirus lockdown.

A source close to the Rugby Football League told The Telegraph: ‘The World Cup is going to take place in the north of England, which is very significant at this time and very important for the royal household to acknowledge and get behind, particularly as it will be happening in many towns where major events are not usually held.

‘The Duke of Sussex was a high profile figure who embraced the World Cup and we hope the next appointment will be a continuation of that.’

They continued: ‘There will be a lot of disruption. The World Cup is in autumn and Prince Harry was expected to be front and centre of that… We were completely blindsided by the news to be honest.’

The Duke of Sussex (pictured with England's James Haskell) had held the role of patron with the Rugby Football League since July 2017 and had even hosted the draw for the tournament at Buckingham Palace in January

The Duke of Sussex (pictured with England’s James Haskell) had held the role of patron with the Rugby Football League since July 2017 and had even hosted the draw for the tournament at Buckingham Palace in January

The Rugby Football League’s current chairman Simon Johnson had previously praised Prince William’s work after working together at the Football Association – where the Duke of Cambridge has held the role of president since 2006.

However, the association has said that The Queen will ultimately make the decision of who will take over the role.

Prince Harry was stripped of his honorary roles as patron of England Rugby Union and Rugby Football League earlier this week after it was confirmed he and Meghan Markle will step down as working royals.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told the Queen they would not be returning to frontline duties following their year outside the Firm.

A spokesperson for the Sussexes said: ‘As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role.

‘We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March 2020 to earn their own money in the US, where they have signed deals with Spotify and Netflix estimated to be worth more than £100million

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March 2020 to earn their own money in the US, where they have signed deals with Spotify and Netflix estimated to be worth more than £100million

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have told the Queen they will not be returning to frontline duties following their year outside the Firm. Pictured: The Buckingham Palace statement

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have told the Queen they will not be returning to frontline duties following their year outside the Firm. Pictured: The Buckingham Palace statement

Buckingham Palace said their decision meant it was ‘not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service’.

A spokesman said: ‘Following conversations with the Duke, the Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of the Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.

‘The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by the Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family.

The roles and patronages Harry will no longer have

Military roles

  • Royal Marines
  • RAF Honington
  • Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving

Organisations

  • The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust
  • The Rugby Football Union
  • The Rugby Football League
  • The Royal National Theatre
  • The Association of Commonwealth Universities

‘While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.’

Within minutes of the announcement, several sporting bodies, including the Royal Football League, released their own statements confirming they had parted ways with the Sussexes.

The league wrote: ‘The Rugby Football League thanks The Duke of Sussex for his time, care and commitment in supporting Rugby League at all levels in recent years – from the children’s game to the Challenge Cup, the England teams and RLWC2021.’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March 2020 to earn their own money in the US, where they have signed deals with Spotify and Netflix estimated to be worth more than £100million.

Stepping down as working royals also means the couple, who now live in an £11million mansion in Montecito, California, will not be able to hold on to their military, Commonwealth and some other patronages.

The couple, who announced on Sunday that they expecting their second child, are poised for their ‘intimate’ interview about their lives with chat show queen Oprah Winfrey on March 7.

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