A round-up of a potential return to play activity across the RLEF regions following widespread lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic shows a varied picture.
Positive signs have come from Czechia where Lukáš Hergott, president of the Česká Asociace Rugby League confirms: “We have rescheduled, League 1 will start on 29 August with four teams (from seven clubs) competing in a full home and away format which should end by 8 November. It’s unclear yet if there will be a play-off with a Grand Final or not. League 2 will start on 22 August with three clubs (and unlimited interchanges), that competition should end by 31 October, and we will review promotion from it.
“Looking ahead, we are putting together our ‘Strategy to Grow’ plan for the next ten years which will initially centre around moving to four sides in each division to enable formal recognition of the sport (we currently have 232 registered players and need 300); and a spring season focussed on 9s and U15 tournaments.”
In Russia, the Moscow Cup should begin this month with midweek matches between four clubs, and the Cup of Russia held in November/December 2020 involving 20 clubs covering five regions, with a double-header semi-final. January-March 2021 should see the Russian Super League commence with up to eight of the best teams competing, whilst two 9s tournaments are scheduled to take place in July and August 2021.
Belgium RL is also formulating a new development plan for the next three years, with the aim of becoming an affiliate member of the RLEF. As part of it, a new club has been formed in Brussels, the Bulls, and according to BRLA president, Zakaria Zoubir, there is an anticipated return for the national side which has been in hiatus for three years.
Whilst no domestic activities are currently planned in Albania, their leading club side Tirana is scheduled to participate in the Greek League next season for the first time, where another new club from just outside Athens, Perama Eagles, has been formed.
Rugby League Ireland is running a shortened domestic season for six clubs throughout August in two groups comprising: Group A – Barrow Cudas, Galway Tribesmen, Cork Bulls; and Group B – Longhorns, Dublin Exiles, Athboy.
Turkey RL has cancelled a Balkan U18 tournament and put their international beach rugby league festival on hold, and there is no open age domestic activity yet in Norway although a 9s tournament in October is planned. However, kids and youth training up to the age of 19 there, is starting to recommence.
Germany is planning a coaching course and national training weekend for when they return, and the French Elite Leagues are scheduled to restart at the end of October.
In Ukraine, the rugby league authorities are awaiting confirmation from the government as to a resumption but have said that they would like to hold a beach tournament in Odesa on 22 August as a forerunner to their Cup starting the following week, along with U16 and U19 competitions. The URLA Super League and U12 and U14 age groups are set to begin sometime in September.
Serbian RL restarted on 6 June and was again stopped on 9 July because of a rise in Covid-19 rates. They are hoping to get back later this month, SRLF commissioner for rugby league competition, Dragan Pavlovic, commenting: “The situation with the virus has worsened, and an emergency situation has been introduced in many cities, which includes bans on public gatherings of more than ten people.
“In such circumstances, the competition commission was forced to interrupt the season for a second time. Unlike the first, although the fixtures are interrupted, the work of the clubs and the federation is not. The summer camp for promising athletes – with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia – went ahead recently for 35 young players from all domestic clubs and the younger ones who play in Serbian women’s national team, under the supervision of five coaches.”
All activity in the Middle East, Africa, Americas and Jamaica are currently paused under lockdown.