Red Star Belgrade are optimistic that they can put together a credible proposal to ensure entry into League 1 as early as next year, according to one of the club’s directors, who insists the RFL is receptive to them joining the professional ranks.
Matthew Wright, a senior director with the Serbian side, has promised they will be unlike any other expansion club in that they will use a strong core of domestic players, and they already have significant foundations in place regarding infrastructure and facilities.
The Serbian club announced last week that they were seeking investment to strengthen their application, and Wright told League Express: “The RFL is really receptive to us right now, and that’s because it’s an exciting venture.”
When asked if they could be accepted in time for 2021, Wright said: “We’re certainly optimistic. It’s in relation to how soon we can get our numbers in. 2021 would be ideal, that’s what we’re pushing for and we’re a really motivated team and want to make sure that happens.”
Wright insisted that while other overseas clubs have few local players, Red Star will be completely different.
“We will always stay true to our values of playing Serbian players,” he said.
“It’s all well and good bringing in a Serbian club, but if we move away from that then we’re just a team playing in Serbia, aren’t we?
“We want to bring those opportunities from Serbian rugby into the British game. We’ve got junior ranks there for a reason, and we want a genuine pathway for Serbia and not to waste our talent and hard work.
“We brought up eight junior players from our under-19s into the senior ranks last year and that would continue if we were in League 1.”
When asked what they need to put into place to ensure their application is successful, Wright said: “We need the membership numbers for a start.
“One of the first things people will say is how many fans have you got, and the RFL will want to know how many are coming to games, what is our turnover and things like that.
“We’re obviously going to need corporate investment and hopefully going public, it allows us to bring in sponsors. League 1 is attracting interest from Valencia, New York and Ottawa, and we’ve seen how well Toronto and Toulouse did in there.
“Red Star could be the next big move for the game. We’ve got a pre-prepared roster, we are a self-sufficient club and we’ve got Serbian players ready to play the game. I’m not sure many other areas could boast that right now.
“We’ve got an edge in that regard, with the fact we’ve been around for a while. That’s why we won’t strip our squad out and fill it with overseas players – and we haven’t got a millionaire waiting to come in. We’re doing it differently; we’re sustainable, we’re proud of our Serbian roots and player pathways and hopefully that shows in our application.”