In the leadup to the second Middle East and Africa Championship, due to take place in Nigeria for the first time (from 2-5th October 2019), bids to host the 2020 tournament have been received from four nations. Competing in Lagos along with the host nation will be Cameroon, Ghana and Morocco.
Nations submitting bids to host the 2020 tournament are: Lebanon, who won the first MEA tournament, South Africa – who are looking to play in it for the first time, and fellow potential debutants Burundi and Nigeria. The 2020 Championship will see the competition revert to a regular two-year cycle.
“South Africa can be significant for rugby league internationally,” said SARL president, Frans Erasmus. “We have the potential to become a major player and we have a lot to offer as a destination. Hosting the MEA Championship will support developing our presence on the sporting landscape here.”
Chairman of Burundi Rugby League XIII, Jean de Christ Rusiga noted: “Sport is our nation’s best ambassador and staging the 2020 MEA Championship would see all the people get behind us, and the game of rugby league. We have some special things planned for our guests if we were to be selected.”
Chris Thair, RLEF general manager, who is responsible for the organisation of the Championship commented: “The strategic importance of the 2019 and 2020 MEA Championships is two-fold. The first is to establish a strong competition which is the flagship international tournament for the region; the second to help move a number of the national federations on, from observer status to affiliate membership, in preparation for 2022.
“The 2022 MEA Championships will form part of the 2025 World Cup qualification process, which will only involve affiliate or full member nations. It is therefore essential that the next two years of competition go well, and – most importantly – that aspiring nations can progress.
“Having just completed the annual audits for 2018,” added Thair, “early indications are that Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Morocco are on track to achieve that status before 2022, and therefore join Lebanon and South Africa. And with Burundi and Congo also showing the potential to progress, the MEA region is becoming an exciting place for rugby league.”
Karl Bistany, Lebanon Rugby League Federation international committee chairman also commented, saying: “This is the way to increase our global reach and improve inclusivity, both within our own community and with key partners. Commercially, hosting the MEA Championship will stimulate more sponsor interest and provide supporters with opportunities to get further involved in the sport.”
The decision on hosting will be taken by the RLEF Board, on 30th September this year.