Spanish league and further exhibitions to follow after Featherstone visit

Valencia have ambitious plans to attract more teams for exhibitions in 2020, along with competing in the new Spanish national league.

Huracanes chief Dean Buchan has been appointed chief executive of the Spanish rugby league federation (AERL), as they look to develop a new domestic competition as well as Valencia aiming to join the RFL’s League 1 from 2021.

Initially slated to get underway in 2019, plans have been revisited for 2020 and it is expected between eight and 12 teams will take part.

One of those will be Valencia, who are also looking to play further friendly matches against teams from the UK, Australia and Europe to raise their profile ahead of 2021.

There have also been applications from clubs in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga.

Buchan said: “We’ve had a number of applications and some have passed the criteria, some require work.

“It will be a completely new structure, and it’s not a case of ‘you’ve got a team, we’ll let you in’.

“They have to be sustainable and demonstrate certain things.”

From Leeds, Buchan moved to Spain five years ago and has spent the past few years developing the Valencia Huracanes project.

One of his first jobs as the head of Spanish rugby league is to improve processes within the game as they seek to attract players, teams and sponsors.

The national team provided encouragement with their displays in the 2021 World Cup qualifiers, losing 42-8 to Ireland, though the score flattered the Wolfhounds courtesy of a few late tries.

There are plans for Spain to play regular internationals in 2020, with talk of Serbia and Red Star Belgrade amongst others making the trip.

Buchan said: “I started working on Valencia 16 months ago, and started dialogue with the RFL in May. Six years ago, the Spanish rugby league had nothing.

“Rugby participation is up between 10 and 15%. It’s a baby of the sports world. People have a taste of it, they like it.

“We have a big expat population to get in to, plus millions of visitors each year.

“The number of messages I’ve had since the announcement about Valencia is fantastic, people want a team here.”

As for the visit of Featherstone later this month, the Vilajoyosa Stadium just 10km from Benidorm will host the game after plans to play it at the 26,000-capacity home of Levante CF had to be shelved after time ran out on talks to get St Helens and Salford over to play in a repeat of last season’s Super League Grand Final.

Buchan added: “We made progress with St Helens and Salford in just a couple of months, and we just ran out of time. Sometimes things don’t come off but all I can say is watch this space.

“We’ve developed a relationship with Featherstone over six or seven months, had lots of conversations and meetings. What would the merits of playing be if they hadn’t had assurances over the team?

“We’re not looking to field an amateur team, there’s no advantage to Valencia being thumped 64-0. I’m not saying we’ll be good enough to beat Featherstone but we can be competitive, like Spain were against Ireland recently.

“We’ll have a blend of Spanish and UK players, probably 50/50 ratio of Spanish to non-Spanish. We’re confident of having a competitive team.”

About James Gordon 7112 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

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