Russian rugby league at crisis point

Harry Kimble Roar Rookie

By Harry Kimble, Harry Kimble is a Roar Rookie

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    Tas Baitieri, the international rugby league development manager, has been in Moscow to hold a meeting regarding the dire straits that Russian rugby league finds itself.

    In the past 12 months, RL Russia has dramatically reduced its international activities. It did not sent a team to the Military World Cup 2008 in Australia, did not send a side to Serbia as intended, and did not participate in the European Nations Cup of 2009.

    Outlining his plans, he wants Russia to field a side in the following tournaments: the 2010 Euro Shield, 2011 World Cup Qualification Games, 2012 Women’s World Cup in England and the International 9s in Samoa.

    At the meeting, Baitieri is quoted as saying, “You all are responsible for the way the game is played and progresses in Russia and unless we work together to achieve this, it will surely disappear. The sport is too good a game for the many participants that play and wonderful to watch.”

    This may be fine for the international scene but there are horrible events in Russia itself which could cause the game to implode. There were dramatic implications for the game in Russia when Rugby Sevens was admitted to the Olympic Games and saw several clubs, including the champions for the past eight years, Locomotive, and the highly rated Kazan Arrows switch to rugby union.

    Alexander Denisov, director of the FRLR, announced that in an order dated 20 January 2010, the Ministry of Sport excluded league from the state register of sports in Russia. This is a huge setback to the code.

    Now, a problem from within has arisen. In 1991, Edgard Taturian, coach of the Soviet Rugby team, with his journalist son, Igor, split from the established rugby union game and took some teams to found the Russian rugby league. The game grew and became entrenched as the Russian Rugby League Federation.

    After the turmoil of the FRLR losing clubs and players this year, the same Edgard Taturian has again caused a split, this time with the Rugby League Federation, to form an Association of Rugby League Clubs. He has already indicated that the following clubs have joined his association: Nevsky Gate, Vereyskaya Bears, Thrashers, North Moscow, Nara, Otradnoe and Spartak-Losinka.

    His aim is to get his the sport re-registered by the sports ministry and his association as the controlling body.

    So far, the FRLR has not announced the teams that will be playing in their 2010 season.

    A Russian once said to me “that when you have one Russian, you have peace, but with two, you have revolution”.

    It appears this is the case at the moment with rugby league in Russia but there are a group who are fighting to stop the total collapse of the game.

    Tas Baitieri & Julia Bennison photo

    Depicted are Tas Baitieri, International Rugby League development manager and Julia Bennison, East European co-ordinator for the RLEF outside the television station NTV-PLUS

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    The Crowd Says (374)

    • March 15th 2010 @ 7:28am
      Andre Gusev said | March 15th 2010 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      sad for league, but good to see locomotiv, one of the oldest rugby clubs in russia, back playing rugby

    • March 15th 2010 @ 7:36am
      oikee said | March 15th 2010 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      Care factor about russian rugby league and rugby union = zero. Russian rugby league was on the road to nowhere always with Locomotive buying the best players and destroying any chance of rugby league being a competitive game.

      Might do better starting from scratch. They will be better suited to union.

      • March 15th 2010 @ 8:20am
        Rod said | March 15th 2010 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        I agree oikee, RL is better off without Loco as you said they took the best and killed the rest.

        How can a sport go forward when one team is battering all others 100 nill each week for 15 years?

        There’s still a lot of RL teams over there, I just hope they stop fighting for control, pull their fingers out and work for the betterment of the sport as a whole instead of trying to get oneupmanship on each other.

        As for RU, couldn’t care less what they are doing over there, let them play their own game, I follow RL.

    • March 15th 2010 @ 8:12am
      Crosscoder said | March 15th 2010 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      Rebuild the game,is the only way from grassroots up.When you have conflicting interests involved the code is on a one way track to nowhere .Ply the officials with a few vodkas and that may knock some sense into them.United they stand ,divided they slip into oblivion.They have juniors involved concentrate on them first.Agree with Oikee’s comments.

    • March 15th 2010 @ 8:19am
      Rodney McDonell said | March 15th 2010 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Harry Kimble, it is inflametory, derogitory and down right wrong to write “the same Edgard Taturian has again caused a split,”. I would ask that you rewrite that section – Get your facts straight.

      Edgar is a Hero to the Rugby League community in Russia. Know one has worked harder than Edgar to drive his sport forward. Unforunately for far too long, the game of Russia has been in the hands of people who did not have it’s best interests at heart. Edgar is doing his best to keep his Nation from sinking to the depths of rugby league.

      You do not know what you are talking about. There is no split. The Russian Rugby League Federation ceased to exist and so the Assocation of Rugby League clubs was formed.

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2010 @ 1:08pm
        Harry Kimble said | March 15th 2010 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        Rodney,
        My article is not “inflametory, derogitory and down right wrong to write “the same Edgard Taturian has again caused a split,”. it is purely stating a fact. Edgard and Igor Taturian split from the Sovier Rugby Union in 1991 because they wanted professional rugby and Rugby was amateur at that time. They wanted to form an Association of the Oval Ball, which originally was to include Aussie rules (but this did not eventuate). From the split, he gained a lot of support and rtgby league eas founded in Russia which eventually became the Russian Rugbilig Federation.

        He has again split from the federation because he is dissatisfied the way it is being run. That is his perogative and is not derogatory at all. It is up to the community as to whether he is successful or not.

        The RLFR is still in existence and held its AGM on 5th February and in the process of restructuring with the help of the RLEF.

    • March 15th 2010 @ 8:59am
      Big Al said | March 15th 2010 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Let’s put Russian League in context. Even at it’s height it was tiny compared to Union. Secondly, most of the League clubs stole talent, players and clubs from Union in the first place. The foundations of the game were fake and based on deception and lies. Now that Russians have woken up to the fact that Union is by far the bigger of the two codes and has Olympic status why would any government have anything to do with league? Union’s Olympic status is the death knell for any aspirations league had of expanding. League is a dead sport – this from the Chairman of the International Rugby Board, Bernard Lappaset: “We firmly believe that there are meaningful opportunities ahead and indeed have already witnessed positive results since October 2009 such as in Russia, where Rugby programmes are being developed within schools and across the country, and in China and Brazil where development programmes are being launched.” League just doesn’t have the credibility to expand or remain in Russia or other new markets. If you were a govt official and had to chose between the two codes you would chose Union any day because its an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport and is globally about 500 bigger than league. This story is just a sign of the times for league – a game that will be dead outside Sydney and Brisbane in about a decade, The stories about league in the international arena are designed to get league supporters believing their game actually exists outside Sydney or Brisbane, when in actual fact it doesn’t. International league is all lies and deception – if you can’t see that, then you are kidding yourself.

      • March 15th 2010 @ 9:30am
        Rod said | March 15th 2010 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Can any of you union fans change the record, it’s becoming annoying.

        Every time RL starts up somewhere, it’s because RL stole everything from Union, what a heap of garbage, the only code to steal from the other so far is union.

        • March 15th 2010 @ 11:11am
          Face the Facts said | March 15th 2010 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Time to Face the Facts – union is massive globally. it continues to grow into untapped markets. Russia is a prime example. i love RL. however, we must recognise that global expansion is pointless. we should keep to our heartlands

          • March 15th 2010 @ 8:52pm
            hutch said | March 15th 2010 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

            to face the facts, the game is growing around the world, there is no need to keep comparing our sport or its growth to rugby union. we are doing our own thing, i dont see the same comparisons being made of rugby union to soccer, which is the only true world game (as the soccer fans like to remind us). you say you love rugby league, you seem like the type of person who would like to see melbourne, the warriors, even the broncos out of the nrl, and to change the name to nswrl and bring back glebe, newtown and annandale! its time to get with the times, we will continue to grow and expand as a sport, we have to!

        • March 16th 2010 @ 8:56am
          Maddog said | March 16th 2010 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          Boo hoo Rod…you seem happy to dish it out but not happy to accept it. Toughen up.
          No RL in Russia…this seems to be the final deathnell for the sport. Time to pack up your Steeden’s boys and go home.

          • March 16th 2010 @ 9:15am
            Rod said | March 16th 2010 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            What are you going on about mate?

            Where have I gone into union threads and destroyed them like you blokes have here?

      • March 15th 2010 @ 10:51am
        Shodan said | March 15th 2010 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        And you are kidding yourself if you believe that unions a truly an international game. Last time I checked is wasn’t even in the top ten global sports. I’m not saying league is bigger (but better, Yes), it just that Union hasn’t got the world wide global empire that their fans would like us to believe it has.

        • March 15th 2010 @ 11:06am
          The Link said | March 15th 2010 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Big Al, if you lie, it just crushes anything you are trying to achieve in posting

          “supporters believing their game actually exists outside Sydney or Brisbane, when in actual fact it doesn’t ”

          What garbage.

        • March 15th 2010 @ 12:49pm
          Dave said | March 15th 2010 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

          An where do you check for this top ten global sports ? Its not from the rugby league forums is it ?

      • March 31st 2010 @ 3:04pm
        Realist said | March 31st 2010 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

        Big Al,

        Are you saying that the Papua New Guineans don’t play rugby league?

    • Editor

      March 15th 2010 @ 9:51am
      Zac Zavos said | March 15th 2010 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      A reminder to all that this article is not an excuse for a code war thread. Please focus on the article, not whose code is better than whose.

      • March 15th 2010 @ 9:55am
        Rod said | March 15th 2010 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Not a problem

      • March 16th 2010 @ 6:56am
        Anon said | March 16th 2010 @ 6:56am | ! Report

        Is anyone going to come along and clean this thread up? Too many Union guys who can’t help but give there 2 cents worth with most of it unrelated to the topic at hand.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2010 @ 11:32am
        MyGeneration said | March 16th 2010 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Seems to have fallen on deaf ears, Zac. Some people see every thread as an opportunity for code war and, in this case, schadenfreude. Pity this is what happens to an informative, honest article.

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