By Phil Caplan, Date: 27/12/12
As rugby league stands on the threshold of a big World Cup year, members of the Russian RL leadership have expressed a single unity of purpose and cautious optimism.
The Association of Rugby League Clubs (ARLK), which assumed control of the sport in 2010, held their AGM in Vereya, south of Moscow and President Edgard Taturyan reported on a year of discernible progress.
â€œOur annual conference demonstrated that in the new ARLK structure we have switched from crisis management to creative work.â€
The year saw an increase in the overall activity in Russia with six new senior teams playing the sport and a 78% increase in the total number of 13-a-side matches played.
Youth activity centred around parts of the capital, the Vereya-Naro-Fominsk area to the south and St Petersburg on the Baltic coast, with rugby league played throughout the year.
The national team, the Bears, which came out of a two-year hibernation in 2010, successfully launched their European Shield campaign with three consecutive wins, and international fixtures have been built into the schedule for at least the next three seasons.
â€œOur priority in 2013 will be to regain Russian rugby leagueâ€™s Full Member status of both the RLEF and the RLIF,â€ continued Taturyan. â€œWe also aim to restore the legal status of the sport in the Russian State Registry of Sports, where we are being more favourably received, in the new year.â€
As part of a wide-ranging and comprehensive strategy, the Assembly members agreed to reintroduce a zonal play-off to complete the 2013 league season, with the four league-leading clubs playing home and away matches to crown a Russian champion.