The Rugby League European Federation Board has approved the Bulgarian Rugby League Federation’s application for Observer status at its latest meeting in London, and also revealed that three other new nation applications in are in their planning stages.
The board also received the latest information from an extensive membership audit which reported that seven Full and three Affiliate members grew their participation, with Jamaica singled out for particular praise.
“More nations were audited than ever before,” said RLEF chair Maurice Watkins, with 10 Full, nine Affiliate and 15 Observers scrutinised. “The RLEF led the drive to raise standards in 2013 which resulted in the adoption of the universal membership policy in Brisbane in 2014. While the adjustment to meet those standards continues in some nations, we are confident that the policy provides a robust framework and will result in stronger members with greater capacity.
“The Jamaican Rugby League Association had a record-setting year and deserves a lot of credit. Having played 100 13-a-side domestic matches in the preceding two seasons, in 2015-16 JRLA administered 138 games and is well established as the fourth most active member in the RLEF, behind England, France and Wales. In addition, JRLA increased its locally generated income by 12%, thanks in large part to record government investment.”
Wales Rugby League, who this week announced it had received record funding from Sport Wales, is in its strongest historical financial position after its first full year of incorporation. Scotland Rugby League appointed a full-time development officer funded by sportscotland, Lebanon received a joint-record government grant, whilst Norway and Italy both demonstrated stronger governance practices.
“The audit also illustrates some of the challenges we face,” added Watkins. “In predominantly volunteer-driven organisations, it is clear that strengthening the layer of governance below national federation level is very important. Our national members must ensure that their clubs and associations recognise and adhere to good practice so they are stable entities in their own right.
“Some of our Full Members experience disruption to their championship seasons through weak clubs, meaning match completion percentages in the 50-60% range, which impacts negatively on the rest of the organisation. That is something we intend addressing in our next strategic cycle, but the Board is prepared to take necessary action to re-categorise members who are unable to meet membership standards. A number of our Observers have also experienced considerable difficulty in sustaining their activity following the loss of key personnel, which reminds us of the importance of volunteerism, which remains a strategic priority for the EU.”
The Board also approved plans to create a new website, which is expected to be live in May. It will blend RLEF members’ social media activity and incorporate three separate areas; the European Championship - which will be presented in its own microsite, a site for the membership organisations themselves, and the technical portal which was launched earlier this year and provides training and education services to RLEF members.