“Rugby League’s presence has grown quite dramatically this year,” says RLEF general manager, Danny Kazandjian in his end of year report. “A number of strategic objectives have been achieved, with Bulgaria, Cameroon, Greece and Turkey all admitted as observer nations.”
“Of the four, the last three all have multiple clubs now and are well positioned to become members by the end of next year and we have implemented benchmarks to systematically achieve that. Significantly, the Netherlands and Germany have both become affiliate members, the first nations since Spain in 2015, demonstrating stability both on and off the pitch.
“Seeing new members is really encouraging as it shows genuine progress in all the key areas, especially in terms of domestic competition.”
As 2017 draws to a close, the total number of RLEF members stands at a record 21 countries and the governing body is currently in contact with another two European and two African nations, both preparing observer applications that will be lodged in 2018.
It has also been the busiest year yet for the RLEF Education team, who not only ran the part EU-funded Training and Education Portal project for 21 European participants, but also delivered courses in Russia and America. The first local graduates of the new Level 2 coaches and match officials programmes qualified, with locally trained educators beginning to take a greater leadership role, significantly strengthening infrastructures.
Some of the brightest European talent will be on display in 2018 with the relaunch of the U19s European Championship, scheduled for 5-11 August in Belgrade, Serbia. The tournament will be officiated by the most promising European officials and will concurrently run an elite coaches camp.
“The Board has supported the membership’s clear desire for more structured international competition,” Kazandjian noted. “The U19s event is now biennial.
“That at there are strong enough youth programmes to support this tournament is a great sign of continuing progress,” he went on. “We saw Norway field a youth national team for the first time, which is a testament to the sensible way in which RL Norge has approached its growth and development.”
The RLEF has also been responsible for more funding awards, with regional directors Remond Safi and Jovan Vujosevic both successful in applications for Lebanon, Serbia and South Africa.
“We are entering the final few months of the current strategic cycle,” concludes Kazandjian. “We are currently writing the new 2018-25 strategy, and the progress that has been made is very encouraging, mainly thanks to the hard work on the ground from largely volunteer-driven governing bodies.
“2017 has been characteristic of that progress.”