Following a board meeting convened earlier this week, the Rugby League European Federation has reluctantly been forced to postpone the men’s 2020 European U19 Championship, due to be held in Italy’s North East coastal city of Lignano Sabbiadoro from 3-13 September, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The tournament will now take place a year later at the same venue and involving the original eight nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Serbia, Wales and Ukraine.
As part of the Championship, the RLEF annual congress was due to have been held and in the interim, that now will become an on-line gathering.
RLEF chair, Maurice Watkins CBE, commented: “COVID-19 is challenging all aspects of our lives, including sport. After consultation with our members, we have made decisions that are the right ones under the exceptional circumstances. I would like to thank the Italian Federation for their adaptability and understanding; it is testament to their dedication and commitment.”
Watkins added: “It is important that the event is U20 next year, as we do not want a group of players to miss out on the opportunity to represent their country which is such a source of great pride. Where we can we want to continue to provide regularity and continued incentive.”
The board had undertaken consultation with all the nations involved before making and communicating its decisions. Key concerns discussed were; safety of young players and staff, significantly reduced preparation time on and off the field including raising finance, and potential international travel restrictions.
“We are in a time of great difficulty, and safeguarding the health of all who play rugby league has always been our priority,” said FIRL president Orazio D’Arrò. “We unhesitatingly support the postponement, it was a clear choice despite the arrangements already in place.
“This is an intelligent and forward-looking move by the RL European Federation, it allows us all to continue preparing and recognizes the work done by the athletes. I am sure we will get out of this terrible situation and that in 2021 there will be a lot of rugby league to enjoy.”
Initial consultation was also entered in to with regards to the men’s European A, B, C and D Championships, due to be played in October and November 2020. At this stage, the RLEF board has decided not to make a final decision on their status.
They will continue to consult with public health bodies, nations and also the Rugby Football League, National Rugby League and International Rugby League in respect of the professional club scenario going forward.