25 May 2011

RLEF Eastern Europe Regional Director Julia Bennison has hailed the successful return of domestic rugby league in Moscow following the successful launch of the second of three regional conferences on 14 May and the ratification of rugby league’s recognition by the Union of National and non-Olympic Sports of Russia.  The latter achievement is the first step to re-enter the sport onto the state’s official register of sports, which will enable the governing RARLC to apply for funding.

“It is great to see Russia ‘back in the game’ after a couple of years of uncertainty while undergoing major organisational changes. But the love for the game was never lost in Russia and we all look forward to see more improvement this season,” said Bennison, who worked closely with the Russian association (RARLC) to obtain Affiliate Membership of the RLEF following the collapse of the old Russian Rugby League Federation.

On the field, the Central Conference, which kicked off two weeks after the Rostov-on-Don-based Southern Conference and precedes the launch of the St. Petersburg-based North West Conference, sees the further consolidation of the sport in Russia following some tumultuous years. Four out of six clubs played the first of their 10-rounds of matches, with Vereya smashing Dinamo Moscow by a staggering 136-14, while Storm of the historic eastern Muscovite suburb of Ismailovo beat Threshers of Moscow 24-14. The remaining two clubs, RBK and Plekhanov Eagles, await stadium corrections to be finalised before they get their seasons underway.

Victor Kraev, The Russian Association’s Moscow development officer was equally bullish after seeing the fruits of months of planning: “we are celebrating the beginning of the championship in the Central Region,” he said. “We now have six clubs - they might be at different levels but I’m certain we will see improvement by the end of the season.”

The Russian season will culminate with the Continental League, which will see the regional front-runners playing off, and joined by the champions of Ukraine.