The Nigerian Rugby League Association (NRLA) has successfully co-ordinated a bid for Nigeria to host the 2019 MEA Rugby League Championships, the first time such will be held in West Africa.
The championships to be staged at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos between Oct 4th and Oct 8th will feature teams from other African countries including Morocco, Ghana and Cameroon.
To ensure that the tournament captures the attention of audiences across Nigeria, games will be televised live on Super Sports and Bein Sports. Winners will be also given a seeding in the world rankings and guaranteed a place in the qualifying competition for the 2025 World Cup.
Speaking at the formal announcement of the association, and hosting of the MEA championship, NRLA Chairman Abiodun Olawale-Cole explained the rationale behind the organisation and its ambitions:
“We have watched for too long wondering why a nation the size of Nigeria, blessed with so many athletes, are not a major force in the world of rugby league. The NRLA is absolutely committed to delivering the 2019 MEA championships as a showpiece event for Rugby League in Nigeria, to building a globally competitive national team and to establishing a domestic league that will provide the next generation of Nigerian players.”
NRLA Vice Chairman and General Manager, former professional player Ade Adebisi also gave some insights into the existing pool of Nigerian talent, and how the NRLA intends to build a domestic Nigerian league to institutionalise the sport across the country.
“Today, Nigerians play professional rugby league in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. We have six players participating in the Australian National Rugby League alone. There is a wealth of talent on which we can draw to quickly establish Nigeria as a force in world rugby league, while investing to build knowledge, awareness and skills across the nation.”
As part of the MEA championships, the Rugby League World Cup Committee will be bringing the world cup trophy on a tour around Lagos and Abuja, as a demonstration of the world bodies commitment to developing the sport in Africa. During the visit, the Federation will be hosting a training session on management for officials from Rugby League associations from 12 countries, including South Africa, Turkey, Morocco, Ghana, Palestine, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Congo and Lebanon.
The Nigerian Rugby League Association (NRLA), a new association was recently formed and recognised as observer members of the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF).
NRLA is also officially recognised by the Nigerian Olympic Association as the authorised body to promote and develop Rugby League in Nigeria. Led by a dynamic group of Nigerians, including a number of former rugby league professionals, the association has embarked on an ambitious programme to make Nigeria a force in world Rugby League while investing in and establishing grassroots infrastructure across the country.