Rugby league’s impact in the Middle East Africa region continues to grow ahead of the 2019 MEA Championships, to be held in Lagos, Nigeria in October and also featuring Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana.
Ade Adebisi, general manager and vice president of the Nigerian Rugby League Association, said: “The Middle East Africa Championships opens up the opportunity to build business relationships with Africa’s largest economy, a country of 200 million people, with the second largest oil and gas reserves in Africa and the largest mobile phone market, with more than 125 million subscribers. Eleven million Nigerians are on Facebook and it has an expanding young, middle class population.
“The championships will be supported by receptions at the British High Commission in Nigeria and gala events that will be both entertaining and beneficial for networking. They will be attended by representatives from the Commonwealth, DTI, The Nigerian government and leading influencers in the country’s key business sectors.”
Part of that will be achieved by the presence of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup’s international development project in the Nigerian capital to support the tournament, whilst the NRLA is confident of concluding a broadcast deal for the event.
Coaching and match official education for at least six nations will be delivered concurrently, necessary to support the expanding domestic programmes, with the four MEA Championship nations also planning to apply for affiliate membership of the RLEF in the near future.
In the Ghanaian domestic competition, table-topping Bulls won 40-16 against Panthers in their latest fixture to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Cameroon’s second season will commence next month with four men’s teams, three women’s and a three-team junior league scheduled, whilst the inaugural Nigerian and Congolese championships are due to begin soon.
MEA regional director Remond Safi noted: “I’m excited to see the increase in activity in the region and the enthusiasm between the members. The MEA Championships and simultaneous courses will not only provide the nations the platform to elevate their membership status, but will also give sponsors great opportunities and benefits.”
Geographical expansion continues, with three African and two Middle East nations preparing observer membership applications, whilst an announcement will be made shortly on the latest rugby league nation in Africa to have obtained government recognition.