IRL welcomes Japan and Montenegro to Observer Membership

The members of International Rugby League (IRL) have voted to support the IRL Board’s recommendation to admit Japan and Montenegro as observer members, which takes the total membership of IRL to 56 nations.

IRL Secretary General Danny Kazandjian welcomed the new members, saying: “I would like to thank both Japan Rugby League (JRL) and Montenegro Rugby League (MRL) for their applications. Japan, which has shown itself to be a truly dynamic sporting nation, is only the second Asian country admitted to IRL, while the admission of Montenegro continues the consolidation in a Balkans region that has been a strength of European development over the past decade.

“We continue to work closely with all members who are not yet recognised by their own government, which is the vital element in progressing us towards full membership of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). Full membership of GAISF is an important ambition for IRL and a waypoint towards IOC recognition, which will see Rugby League reach new levels of assimilation in multiple countries where it is still a young sport”

The history of Japanese Rugby League goes back to 1993, when the game was established by expatriate Australian Max Mannix. A Japanese team played in the World Sevens in Sydney in 1994 and 1995 and Japan competed in the Emerging Nations World Cup in 2000, before entering a period of decline.

JRL President, Amani Konishi commented: “Japan Rugby League is very excited to become a member of International Rugby League. We are now in a great position to develop the game of Rugby League for men, women & youth.

“On behalf of JRL, I would like to thank Jeremy Edwards and Gareth Holmes for their support in our membership application. Asia Pacific Rugby League has been and will continue to be a big support for us.”

Montenegro Director, Igor Adzaip, commented: “We are very grateful to IRL for granting us observer status. This is just the incentive required for the further development of our federation.

“Our plans for 2022 are to establish a domestic competition with three clubs and to try to fulfil IRL and ERL membership criteria for affiliate membership.

“There is no doubt that we will justify the trust that IRL has given us by approving our membership status, and that this has opened the door to the International Rugby League family.”

Membership of IRL continues to grow, with The Association of Rugby League of El Salvador the latest nation to start the process. They have applied for observer status to the European Rugby League, which will, if successful, go forward to IRL for approval.