29 Aug 2013

A record number of 24 nations, an increase of four from last year, attended the 11th Rugby League European Federation Annual Council Meeting and fourth RLEF Conference at Brunel University, to coincide with last weekend’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

It signalled a first full year as chair for Maurice Watkins CBE. “Some notable progress has been made by many of our members in line with RLEF strategy and there is real unity of purpose throughout the countries to strengthen their on and off-field operations,” he said. “The high proportion of members in attendance and the distances travelled by some points to an extremely committed and serious group.”

Thirteen of 15 RLEF members, eight of 13 Observers and three uncategorised nations attended and also received with a Rugby League World Cup update delivered by competition general manager Sally Bolton and operations director Jon Dutton.

The delegates then participated in a lively debate led by RLEF and RLIF board member Graeme Thompson covering proposed re-structuring of the 2014-21 RLEF international calendar, which could see the European Cup, Shield and Bowl replaced by an integrated European Championship from next year. The planned name change is designed to enable members to better engage with local stakeholders, especially in government, who are familiar with dealing with such a system. The draft eight-year calendar is now set for a month’s consultation period to allow the members time to study the mechanics of a system that would introduce promotion and relegation between the tiers.

Federazione Italiana Rugby League vice president Tiziano Franchini delivered a presentation on the possible re-introduction of the Mediterranean Cup and South African Rugby League official Chris Botes outlined SARL’s bid to host the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The final session, on media, was delivered by Sydney Morning Herald columnist and writer Steve Mascord and the Hellenic Rugby League Federation’s George Stilianos.

“The conference actually exceeded our expectations and I am still processing all the ideas, data and information,” commented Danmark Rugby League Forbund president Steve Davy. “It offered an extremely valuable chance to learn from fellow delegates.  It was a unique opportunity to share ideas with countries that are new to rugby league,” he added.

Belgian rugby league president Yves Kazadi, like Davy attending his first meeting, was also encouraged: "It is awesome how this type of meeting can offer a boost in our managerial approach for the next season. I made a lot of contacts and the several projects presented show how fast our RLEF is growing. I went back to Belgium with a bigger appetite and a stronger motivation to increase the number of affiliates and activities for the Belgium."

Members in attendance: Czech Republic (CZRLA), England (RFL), France (FFRXIII), Germany (RLD), Ireland (RLI), Italy (FIRL), Lebanon (LRLF), Russia (ARLK), Scotland (SRL), Serbia (SRLF), South Africa (SARL), Ukraine (UFRL), Wales (WRL)

Observers: Belgium (BRLA), Denmark (DRLF), Greece (HeRLFC), Latvia (LRL), Malta (MRL), Netherlands (NRLB), Sweden (SRL), UAE (UAERL)

Uncategorised: Ghana, Poland, Romania