In the lead up to their participation in the 2017 World Cup, the Lebanese Rugby League Federation has announced an expansion to its domestic programme, as the sport continues to take firm root in the Mediterranean country. A fifth senior club, Lycans, has joined the flagship Lebanese Rugby League championship, which kicks off next month.
That competition sits above a two-tiered College competition, which has increased from eight to 10 teams, and a schools competition which – for the first time – will see regular fixtures at U16 and U18 level.
LRLF CEO Remond Safi said: “It will be a very exciting year, especially with the World Cup in prospect. There has been a good vibe amongst the rugby league community in Lebanon which has led to an significant increase in participation.”
Their season kicks off on 26 October with a Division 1 Grand Final re-match, University of Balamand taking on Lebanese American University, and two days later Division 2 commences, which sees two new teams, Beirut Arab University and Lebanese International University Tripoli, added to the fixtures.
Combined, the open-age programme now represents 70 matches, the most comprehensive in Lebanon’s history.
The women’s game, which is still very much in its infancy, adds another layer too, as does the youth programme, which has experienced setbacks in the north due to a lack of facilities in the last couple of years.
The school’s championship, which begins in January, is divided into Mount Lebanon (Beirut and the surrounding districts) and North Lebanon. Antonine International School, Broummana High School, Notre Dame de Louaize and Saint Joseph High School will all field U16 and U18 teams, while the LRLF continues to reconstitute the north, where Al Malab High and St Theresa High School lead the way.
The Australian Embassy will continue to contribute to the youth programme.