International Focus: Russia

Where did the inspiration come from to bring rugby league to Russia?

The inspiration came from within the country. Mr Edward Taturian was interested in making a move away from Rugby Union and picked up on the sport of Rugby League from English contacts.

Who was involved in the setting up of your organisation, and who helped from the outside?

Mr Taturian set up the league here with the assistance of a Mr Phil Larder from England. As things were starting, Mr Tas Baiteri, International Rugby League's Development Officer started assisting in many ways, including visits, coaching material etc.

Was it an uphill struggle to found your organisation?

Yes, it was an uphill battle, one that is still being battled. Rugby League will always battle here, as the sports of Football (Soccer), Ice-Hockey and basketball are the "Russian Sports".

 Was there any opposition to it?

I'm led to believe that the Rugby Union were agaist it and banned players from joining Rugby League in the beginning. Now, relations are still cool, but respectful.

Has there been a great deal of interest in rugby league from the people of Russia?

The game is played in many places around Russia. Teams can travel for 16 hours just to play a game. At the height of development, under the sponsorship of ex President, Ahmet Kamildinov, the Russian Rugby League had 40 000 spectators at the USA Vs Russia Victory Cup match. Interest in the game is slowly developing, but needs more work at the grass roots level if it is to succeed. Newspapers and TV touch on league occassionally, but not as much as is needed.

Are you pleased with how far you have come so far?

I am pleased that Rugby League is being played in Russia, but we have alot more to do. Development at junior level is not as strong as it should be. The Russian Rugby League is not being bank rolled to any great extent, so the competition is very uneven. You have fully professional teams like Locomotive, who dominate the competition and then other clubs, who are basically Amateur or semi amateur. The national team are improving, but again, if players are to improve, they need a higher level of games on a weekly basis.

What are your plans and aims for 2007?

Our plans are to break the ice and have our first home grown player, playing in the NRL in Australia. His name is Roman Ovchenikov, who will join the Wests Tigers in mid March. We then hope to continue the development of our junior academy and continue the dvelopment of our ten team Premier League and referees association.

How far do you think you can go in the near future?

In the near future, we hope to start competing with nations like France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Russia is top of the Euro natons teams, but now need to close the gap between us and the British based teams.

Where do you see rugby league in Russia in twenty years time?

In twenty years time, we hope to have a fully professional game here at home, many Russians plying their trade in England and Australia and Russia competing on an equal footing with the top nations in the World Cup.

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