David Butler took up his position as general manager of European Rugby League in the midst of a global pandemic and with almost everyone unable to play the sport.
Gradually, through 2021 there was a return to activity in some countries and some members who were just unable to function due to local restrictions.
Butler has, however, had some time to settle into his role and looks forward to a semblance of normality in 2022, saying “We have seen some return to normality towards the end of year, with the Euro B and Euro D competitions becoming the first organised international competitions to take place since the pandemic and European Rugby League worked closely with eight of our members who staged 10 international friendly men’s, women’s and wheelchair fixtures which was very pleasing to see and demonstrated the good health that the international game in Europe finds itself.
“Most members’ domestic competitions also resumed, some in modified formats, such as the Netherlands who ran a series of 9-aside tournaments, but there was plenty of activity to report on and be proud of as we emerged from restrictions caused by Covid-19.”
Rugby League runs through the heart of Wigan! 🏉
Will you be joining us in the stands at the @DWStadium 🏟 to mark the @MovemberUK Mental Fitness Matchday and share the same pride and passion as RLWC2021 Ambassadors, @RHunterPaul and @hardcastle03? 🗣#RLWC2021 | @RLCares pic.twitter.com/hU9TiphWtN
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) January 27, 2022
Looking in some detail at 2022 in Europe specifically, ERL is expecting to see local competitions operating with less restrictions and the signs are positive from some significant members, “I expect to see the Netherlands’ domestic competition return to a 13-aside and Italy are making plans to re-establish a domestic competition after quite heavy restrictions in the country over the last two years.” Explained Butler
“Scotland, Wales and Ireland all showed great progress last year and I would expect to see them to grow again, and already Scotland are reporting they will have three Wheelchair teams playing. We have already seen Norway announce their fixtures and plans are being discussed in the Balkan region to ensure that the Balkan Super League continues in 2022. All very encouraging.”
A major role of ERL is to support its members in their development, this takes many forms but often includes education of coaches and match officials, “To support the growth in activity, late last year we deployed Paul Causby, who is an ERL qualified match officials tutor from Ireland, to lead a course in Norway in preparation for their 2022 competition.”
“We aim to stage more training events centred on competition activity that will be taking place to ensure that we can continue the great work that we have been doing over the last decade with our own suite of Level 1 and Level 2 Coaching and Match Officials qualifications.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 will be a major focus for a lot of members but there will be plenty of other activity throughout the year, “ERL stages a biennial U19s European Youth Championships which had to be postponed in 2020 and could not be rescheduled in 2021, so we will be making some announcements about that over the next few months.