Date: 28/6/17

Following the RLEF’s 15th annual congress, held in Belgrade, the Nederlandse Rugby League Bond has been elevated from observer to affiliate member status, taking the total number of members to 19 – with an additional 14 observer nations alongside.

Thijs van der Zouwen, president of the NRLB, said: “Over the last few years we have been building a strong foundation for rugby league in the Netherlands. Slowly but steadily the sport has been growing. We have achieved this milestone thanks to all the hard work done by enthusiastic and driven volunteers such as Jason Bruygoms, Timo Meinders and Justin Stook.

“Their dedication has made it possible for more people to get exposed to and involved with rugby league. We are determined to continue on this path and strive for bigger and better things in the coming years.”

The congress was attended by 20 countries, with three additional members joining the formal council meeting remotely. The schedule included, further discussion of the Balkan Super League, a Level 2 match official course, dialogue on the role of domestic players in long-term development, the Belgrade 9s – won by Ukraine for the first time – and an RLEF Board meeting.

RLEF chairman Maurice Watkins noted: “I would like to extend my thanks to Predrag Pantic, president of the Serbian Rugby League Federation, and to all his colleagues for another well organised and stimulating congress, rich in content and providing the attending nations with multiple opportunities to share ideas and make recommendations to the RLEF for future planning, which we encourage.

“Our organisation is witnessing the growth of capacity of its members, with the result that there are more concrete ideas on the direction in which they think European rugby league should travel, all of which have contributed to a more dynamic federation.“

In the council meeting, following a lengthy debate, there was a consensus among members to increase the minimum number of domestic quota players in senior national squads from four to six.

Belgrade will also stage the 2018 congress, between 10-12 August, having won a competitive tender. It will be their third time in four years since the process was established, Ireland hosting in 2016.

Nations attending this time were: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Wales.