The Greek Rugby League Association (GRLA) is on the brink of an historic and difficult decision to move their final RLIF Rugby League World Cup qualification game away from Athens and probably into England.
This comes about because of the long-running and baffling arrangement where the Greek government has recognised a rival and unrecognised group governed by the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon (HFMP).
The Greek Rugby League Association, who are the official governing body recognised by the Rugby League International Federation, run their domestic competitions, all the coach and match official programmes and, of course, the national team. They have, however, had to play games late at night and in secret to avoid attracting the attention of the police who have, on at least one occasion, and following intervention by the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon, stopped games from taking place and compelled key individuals to answer questions at the police station.
Further, in October 2017 the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon filed an injunction against GRLA fielding a national team, but that action was rejected by the courts. Despite these obstacles, the national team has progressed through the World Cup qualification process for the 2021 event and now faces a final competition away to Russia and at home to Scotland and they are extremely confident of a successful outcome.
However, they cannot confirm their home game against Scotland without approval from the government or the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon and that looks unlikely in the timeframe available.
RLIF Global Operations Manager Danny Kazandjian has been communicating with modern pentathlon’s international federation, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM).
“This is one of the more bizarre set of circumstances that we have ever faced. The former organisation for Rugby League in Greece, HFRL, which was led by Tasos Pantazidis, who went on to become the Greek modern pentathlon president, was expelled by the Rugby League European Federation after investigations into malpractice.
“The Greek Rugby League Association has worked diligently under great duress and progressed through to the final stage of qualification for the finals of one of the oldest sporting World Cup competitions, but they are unprepared to risk the consequences of playing in their own country without guarantees from their own authorities.
“The RLIF has, over months, communicated directly with Shiny Fang, the General Secretary of Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne, but sadly UIPM feels that the solution is not in their control and they will not interfere. Clearly, the current circumstances are not in the best interests of either sport, and the status quo is unsustainable and intolerable.
“GRLA will write to the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon asking it to relinquish control of a sport it has no knowledge of or involvement with. Should they refuse the only remaining solution will be through the courts. Consequently, at this stage, it does look likely that the game between Greece and Scotland will have to take place outside of Greece.”
The RLIF will release full details in due course.