Rugby League is spreading across Central Europe with a little help from the neighbours
Following the first senior international match of 2021, where Serbia travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina, there is a real optimism around rugby league across central and southern Europe.
The Serbian Rugby League Federation has engaged in a programme to support the further expansion of the sport across its nearest neighbours. Throughout June and July, they will have international representative teams on the road to Bulgaria, Montenegro and Albania.
In recent weeks we have also seen Ukraine Federation of Rugby League actively supporting development work in Belarus. At club level, Tirana recently joined forces with Southern Region in Montenegro to play against Partizan Belgrade and they are expected to start the new season in the Greek Rugby League Association competition once COVID restrictions allow.
The support demonstrates a very strategic approach in the region as captured by Dragan Pavlovic, Serbian Rugby League Board member; “Our plan is to play all these matches with mainly U21 players to build up our national team for the future and to assist the Balkan nations in our neighbourhood to develop rugby league.
“Where we have the opportunity, we will also send our coach and match official educators to run level 1 courses.”
Jovan Vujosevic is the European Rugby League Regional Director; he recognises and appreciates the steps being taken and the spirit of co-operation between members and neighbours; “I am delighted with the hard work that all nations have done in the harsh Covid-19 conditions. Ukraine and Serbia are leading the developments at the moment, and it's great to see both nations assisting their neighbours to grow our sport. I also know that, as soon Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, Albania will join the Greek domestic competition, which is again a great example of co-operation between nations, and I expect that Czechia will assist Slovakia in their plans to start playing.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm regarding rugby league across whole of Europe and we should be very proud of that."