Rugby league in Russia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Rugby league in Russia
Country Russia
Governing body Association of Rugby League Clubs
National team Russia
Nickname(s) the Bears
First played 1989
Registered players 2,000+ [1]
National competitions
Rugby League World Cup
Rugby League European Championship B
Club competitions

Rugby league is a team sport in Russia. The Russian Association of Rugby League Clubs (ARLK) is the governing body of rugby league in Russia.


Soviet delegation attended Dewsbury's 1973 English Championship win and suggested that exhibition games be held in Eastern Europe to gauge interest.

Rugby league returned in the late 1980s thanks largely to the efforts of Edgar Taturyan (there are different spellings of his name due to problems converting Cyrillic script to the Latin alphabet). Edgar Taturyan helped develop the new game with players from Moscow's rugby schools and supervised the game's expansion outside of the capital.

Early success for Russian rugby league came in the form of one of the Locomotive Rugby Football Club's junior team of 1987 which was sent to England to compete in a series of matches. Despite being expected to lose every game to their far more experienced opponents, the youngsters won all five of their matches. This proved that Russia could take to rugby league as well as any other country.

Taturyan's work allowed rugby league to become established; more importantly it was established before the onset of the chaos that accompanied the dissolution of the USSR, which would have made it nearly impossible to establish a new sport in Russia after 1991. Luckily by that time the Russian Rugby Football League (RRFL) had already been established.

Mr Maslov, at the time a member of the Russian Rugby Union (RRU), watched a game of rugby league on BBC TV and was instantly converted. With that, Maslov and his friend and President of the Russian Rugby Union, Edgar Taturyan, formed the RRFL.

Russian Rugby Football League[edit]

After the initial formation of the RRFL many of Maslov and Taturyan's RRU associates changed allegiances and joined the administration of Russia's new fledging sport. Prior to the commencement of the RRFLs inaugural rugby league championship in 1990, 3 teams, Moscow Magicians, Leningrad and Tiraspol were sent to England to learn the finer points of rugby league.

On the teams' return all three took part in the first RRFL championship, between the 3 teams which had toured England as well as those based in Kazan, Alma-Ata and Krasnoyarsk. Two of the 3 initial teams went on to play in the inaugural final, which was staged in Tiraspol, Moldova. The occasion attracted in excess of 5,000 spectators.

The next season saw a dramatic increase in the number of teams competing in rugby league with the national competition expanding to 7 teams from all over the country. The teams which competed in 1991 were Moscow Magicians, Tiraspol, Moscow Spartak, Red Arrows, Lions of St Petersburg, Kazan, Stars of Asia and Moscow Bears. It was Tiraspol's year as they beat the Magicians 26-16 in the final played in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.

Following Tiraspol's RRFL final win in 1991, the Moscow Magicians took a stranglehold on the domestic competition for the next 4 years winning as many titles. It was then the turn of Strela Locomotive for 2 years, followed by the Kazan Arrows who have become the most successful team in Russian history.

From the early formation of the league to 1993 the competition was going strong with junior participation on the rise and teams of Kazakhstan and Georgia trying to gain admittance to the league.

Challenge Cup history[edit]

Kazan Arrows and Moscow Locomotive made history in December 2001 by becoming the first Russian teams to feature in the European Rugby League Challenge Cup, one of the most prestigious international rugby league tournaments in the world. Since 2001 Russian clubs have travelled to England to take part in the tournament.

Moscow club Dinamo entered the cup in the 2nd round of the 2004 competition and became the first Russian team to achieve victory in any match of the challenge cup since the Russians' first appearance in 2001. The same year Locomotive joined Dinamo when entering the competition in the 3rd round.

Cross roads of 2005[edit]

One of the best years for the game in Russia had to be 2004, thanks mostly to Akhmet Kamaldinov, then president of the RRFL. Kamaldinov also took on role of financier to not just the federation, but the game of rugby league in Russia, providing money, referees’ kit and development work for the league and equipment for all of the RRFL clubs as well as funding and organising major international events such as the Victory Cup. The game in Russia which had achieved steady gains since his arrival with junior numbers up and the national league looking strong.

Only weeks after an internal row between the Dinamo and Locomotive clubs in Moscow led to the exit of national coach Bob Bailey, there now seemed to be pressure from Locomotive on Kamaldinov's presidency of the RRFL. Locomotive were of the opinion that they and not Kamaldinov should run the RRFL. The 29 January 2005 was pencilled in as the day that would decide Kamaldinov's future with the RRFL. On word of the unrest in Russia, the RLEF representative flew out to the 29 January meeting in an effort to restore harmony in the RRFL.

The meeting ended badly and unfortunately led to Kamaldinov's and Vladmimir Dolgin's resignations from the RRFL as president and chairman respectively. Following Kamaldinov's departure it was feared he would leave rugby league altogether; in what could have been the crushing blow to the game in Russia, Kamaldinov withdrew all support for the game as financier to the federation, its clubs and even went as far as to move club Dinamo to a rugby union sevens league.

Despite all that happened early in the year, the RRFL went ahead with its annual championship, including the youth world cup, which was thought by many not to go ahead. The jury is still out as to whether or not rugby league in Russia can survive its latest crisis.

Competitions until 2008[edit]

Russian Championship[edit]

The Russian Championship (or Russian Super League or Championship of Russia) consisted of 6 teams in the 2008 season:

  • Locomotive - Moscow
  • Arrows- Kazan
  • Vereya - Moscow Region
  • Crystal - Rostov-on-Don
  • Kosmos - Moscow Region
  • Legion - Kharkiv (Ukraine)

Dinamo Moscow and St Petersburg Nevskaya Zastava started the season but failed to complete it. Saint Petersburg Lesteh and Volgodonsk Navy-Sphere entered the cup but did not participate in any league.

Championship NFRR-13

Premier League

Major League Major League teams are divided into groups on a geographical basis

Challenge Cup[edit]

Two teams each year take part in the British Challenge Cup, along with four teams from France including Les Catalans, although the challenge cup is not considered to be a 'European Cup', more a domestic competition in the UK that invites these teams into the early rounds.

However Russian teams have not played in the challenge Cup since 2009 due to the funding crisis in Russian Rugby League.

The Crisis of 2009 and 2010[edit]

Olympic Status of Rugby Union Sevens and the expulsion of Rugby League from the State Register of Sports of Russia[edit]

By mid-2009 the three major clubs of Russian Rugby League had moved over to Rugby Union as a result of government pressure to achieve results in rugby union sevens, newly designated as an Olympic Sport. These clubs were Kazan Arrows, Dinamo Moscow and the champions for the past eight years, Lokomotiv Moscow.[2][3]

Russian Ministry of Sports order number 21 dated January 20, 2010 expelled the Rugby League from the State Register of Sports of Russia.[4] The reasoning for the expulsion was reportedly due to the Ministry's view that Rugby League was not a separate sport from rugby union.[5]

In February a new president of the RRLF was elected, Alexander Eremin. Mr Eremin, the board members and employees of the RRLF are currently investigating the potential for the continuation of Rugby League in Russia with various government, civic and sports organizations, in particular the ministry of Sports and Rugby Union of Russia [4]

After the turmoil of the RRLF losing clubs and players, Edward Taturian has now caused a split with the Rugby League Federation, to potentially form an Association of Rugby League Clubs.

The Association of Rugby League Clubs of Russia (ARLKR)[edit]

2010 began with no clear framework or competition, within this context the old figurehead Taturyan established the Association of Rugby League Clubs of Russia (ARLKR) seemingly independent of the RRLF.

The following clubs joined the ARLKR association:[2][3]

  1. Nevsky Gate
  2. Vereyskaya Bears
  3. Threshers
  4. North Moscow
  5. Nara
  6. Otradnoe
  7. Spartak-Losinka.

(In 1991, Edgard Taturian, the former coach of the Soviet Rugby team, split from the Russian rugby union and took over some teams to found the Russian Rugby League. The game grew and became known as the Russian Rugby League Federation.)[3]

Current domestic competition[edit]

Rugby league is now played domestically in conferences. North, Central and South. At the conclusion of each conference's fixtures, the top teams enter into the national championship.


Rugby league has over 2,000 active participants in Russia. The game has grown steadily since its formation in the 1980s despite no Government assistance and a reliance on a passionate group of volunteers.


Starting in 2009 NTV Plus Sport broadcasts live rugby league matches from the European Super League competition.[6]

The national team[edit]

Main Article: Russia national rugby league team

The Russian Bears represent Russia in international rugby league tournaments and other rugby league fixtures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Новости Регби Федерация Регбилиг Россия". 
  2. ^ a b Rugby League World June 2010 pages 62-66
  3. ^ a b c The Roar. "Russian rugby league at crisis point 15 March 2010". The Roar. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  4. ^ a b RRLF. "RRLF Website Press release 05 February 2010". RRLF. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  5. ^ name="
  6. ^ RLEF. "The RLEF Courier, Issue 7, February 2009" (PDF). Rugby League European Federation. Retrieved 2008-07-30. [dead link]

External links[edit]