The Turkish Rugby League Association has become the 21st member of the Rugby League European Federation. They have been upgraded from Observer status after increases in participation and instituting enhanced governance procedures.
Their success off the field is also matched on it, with recent participation in the Balkan 9s, Emerging Nations World Championship – finishing seventh – and hosting the GB Student Pioneers, whilst club side Kadikoy Bulls made the semi finals of the Balkan Super League, losing to powerhouses Red Star Belgrade.
In addition, Turkey played their inaugural youth international in July 2018, when their U21s were narrowly beaten by Serbia U19s.
TRLA president, Gurol Yildiz, commented: “This is wonderful news for our organization. We started with five men’s teams in 2016 and now have ten, together with four women’s sides playing in competitions. This is a huge achievement for our association and we give thanks especially to Julien Treu, who has been such a driving force with the vision and energy he brings.
“Winning the Balkan 9s tournament in August with triumphs over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Serbia was a tremendous achievement. We now believe we can achieve bigger goals and I must acknowledge my board members and the clubs for their hard work and effort.”
RLEF general manager Chris Thair said: “Turkey has a strengthening national team, a domestic club competition and a good level of governance. These are fundamental building blocks that will allow the sport to grow, and I’m delighted for those involved who have achieved this milestone.
“The TLRA have been particularly innovative in their approach in taking the sport to the people of Turkey, putting sand pitches and viewing stands in car parks of huge shopping centres and playing games using inflatable touchlines and posts. They have been successful in recruiting new players to the sport with out-the-box thinking that has brought its rewards.”
Thair added: “The RLEF staff have supported the development of the TRLA and, thanks to the EU-funded Erasmus programme, we have also improved the number of match official and coaching educators in Turkey which will aid their sustainability. The RLEF are to hold their 2019 Congress in Istanbul and International Federation chairman Nigel Wood recently held meetings with Turkey’s Youth & Sports Minister Dr. Mehmet Kasapoglufor.”
Jovan Vujosevic, RLEF Central & Eastern Europe regional director, noted: “I want to congratulate Turkish Rugby League for all that they have achieved in last two and a half years. With hard work and determination they have built the sport from scratch despite numerous obstacles put in their way.”