The recent World Cup saw teams journey from all corners of the globe to play and there was some interesting new debutants from Europe, all thanks to the great work of European Rugby League who are celebrating their 20th birthday today.
One of the debutants in the men’s tournament was Greece with the nation competing in their first ever World Cup despite the sport having been illegal in their homeland until very recently.
It was announced earlier this week that Greece would host their first ever international game when Serbia visit Athens for a match in May highlighting the huge strides that rugby league in Europe is making, and a lot of that comes down to the formation of European Rugby League 20 years ago.
Formerly known as the Rugby League European Federation a committee met in Paris on 10th January 2003 to officially create what we now know as European Rugby League.
European Rugby League shared to their website comments from Richard Lewis, chair of the RFL.
“It was a significant decision to make at the time as it was about diverting resources – money, people, time and emotional energy – but it was important to show those with an interest in rugby league, no matter which country they were from, that there was an opportunity to grow and develop.
“The initial aims and objectives were to give a focus, structure and pathway and to show people what they needed to do to get their country on the map and be part of the rugby league family”
Starting with just 11 nations at the founding meeting, the ERL now boasts 48 members including nations beyond Europe with the Middle East and Africa and then the North Americas’ regions also coming under the ERL’s responsibility.
The current general manager, David Butler, commented: “This anniversary is an opportune time to reflect on the foresight and achievement of both the ERL as an organisation and, as importantly, its members.
“As we look towards 2025 and the Rugby League World Cup remaining in Europe and being hosted by France and see a bigger than ever pool of nations set to qualify across four tournaments, we should be grateful for the foundations which were laid so well over the last 20 years.
“The next stage of development will see us look to widen and deepen our footprint, improve our commerciality and continue to support our member nations to raise standards on and off the field.”