Ukraine has become the latest nation to receive Membership of the Rugby League European Federation. The Ukrainian Federation of Rugby League has been an Observer since 2008 and has overseen significant growth in the numbers playing the sport since, with 2011 being their busiest year.
RLEF Chairman Richard Lewis commented, “It is terrific to see the progress rugby league is making in the Ukraine and everyone involved should be congratulated. To have the UFRL added to our list of Affiliate Members is another boost for the international game”.
From its origins, in the industrial cities of Kharkov and Donetsk in east Ukraine, rugby league is now also played at open age level in Dnepropetrovsk and, since earlier this year, the capital Kiev. It is shown on Ukrainian television by channels Sport-1 and Sport-2 and, in another major development this year, in schools in Donetsk, Avdeevka, Yasinovataya, Krasnoarmeysk, Sevastopol, Feodosiya, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk.
UFRL president Anatoly Pokroyev said, “During our recent visit to Serbia we were absolutely delighted to hear the news that our application for Affiliate Membership was successful. It took our federation five years of hard work which by no means should slow down now as we understand that the new status means new challenges for us.”
“In order to make rugby league a popular sport in Ukraine we have not only worked hard on spreading the game. We intend to carry on in that direction by focusing more on youth development as well as making our community more familiar with this fast and rugged game through the media. We have a lot of courage and no intention to stop.”
Pokroyev and his fellow board members are currently negotiating with the Ukrainian government to officially recognise the sport and the federation – a process in which RLEF Membership plays an important role. The RLEF directors’ decision will be formally ratified at their next board meeting, in Avignon on 21 October.