Rugby League’s most geographically spread club competition, the Balkan Super League, will be further expanded when it kicks off in April 2019.
Following the inclusion of a first Italian side, Lignano Sharks, the third year of the tournament will see it encompassing fourteen clubs for the first time, spread over two divisions, with eight nations involved.
“After months of open discussion amongst the participating clubs and federations involved,” said BSL commissioner Dragan Pavlovic,” we have shaped this year’s format and are confident that it will produce the best championship so far.
“We are returning all the previous countries involved, while the major addition is having Italian rugby included with Lignano.”
Eight clubs will feature in the first division, in two pools of four, with previous winners Red Star and Partizan, both from Belgrade being the respective top seeds.
Lignano will be in the same pool as holders Red Star, along with their Serbian rivals Dorcol and Greek club Aris Eagles.
(Inaugural winners and last season’s runners-up) Partizan’s initial opponents, will be Locomotive Sofia (Bulgaria), Kadikoy Bulls Istanbul (Turkey) and another Serbian side, Radnicki Nis.
In the second division, Group A will feature Montenegro’s South Region from Tivat, FIS Vitez of Bosnia Herzegovina, and Albanian’s CR Tirana. Turkish side Ankara Phrygians are in Group B, alongside Serbia’s Red Kangaroos and Radnicki Novi Beograd.
In both divisions, the two best-placed teams in each group will enter the play-offs and contest the semis, with the respective Grand Finals set to be staged at the home venue of the highest ranked side.
Sharks’ team manager, Davide Macor, noted: “We are very happy to be able to enter such a prestigious and high-level tournament. For us it will certainly be a great sporting and human experience.
“We are working hard to guarantee the best event for our visitors. We are ambitions, but we are aware that we will face teams of great prestige and we will face that challenge with enthusiasm and desire.”
BSL founder and RLEF Central & Eastern regional director, Jovan Vujosevic, commented: “We are very proud that our initial idea of just spreading the rugby league spirit in the region, is growing into a serious championship. There is interest from other countries too, and in the future we see the BSL as the biggest driver to elevate the level of the sport in this region.”