Red Star Belgrade abandon 2021 League 1 bid, aim for new pan-European comp


RED Star Belgrade have given up on their bid to join Britain’s League 1 next season and are instead focusing on a proposed European club competition which could launch as soon as 2022.

Owner Colin Kleyweg says the Covid-19 crisis means the proposed June deadline for whether the Serbian club would proceed with a bid to join Ottawa in the third tier of the British game next year was now a moot point.

But as a director of the Rugby League European Federation, Kleyweg says talks for a new competition spanning the continent were significantly advanced and Red Star might find this a better option.

“In this current situation there’s no certainty over what’s happening – you’d be foolish from a business perspective to pursue something that you have no certainty on,” Kleyyweg tells

Kleyweg said rather than automatically push the plans back to 2022, he would assess other options.

“I’m chairing a working group with the RLEF board to look at the viability of European club competition,” the Perth businessman said. “That’s been ongoing for the last year.

“I started on this process with the blessing of the board in February 2019. In November 2019, we put forward a document and it was ratified by the board so this year we’ve been working in the background and discussing with potential people to get involved.”

Kleyweg said the aim of a pan-European competition would be to improve the standard of players available to national teams.

“At the moment, one of the ways European nations become more competitive is bring in Australians,” he said. “There’s a lot of conjecture at the moment about whether that is appropriate or its not appropriate.

“There’s no way you can (improve domestic players) by having six, eight, 10 round of local domestic football in each nation, sitting at the levels they currently sit at and comparing those players to those just outside the NSW or Intrust Super Cups. There’s just no comparison.

“How do you change it? You get six or seven of the domestic players into a professional set-up playing over six or seven weeks.”

Kleyweg said it was also important that England had competitive opposition within Europe and believed what had been done in the Pacific could be replicated in the northern hemisphere.

He added there were different ideas about when the competition, drawing from teams based only European capitals with direct air links, would be played.

“There’s a large number of people who have a real preference for this happening through summer – like, a May, June, July, August-type thing,” he explained.

“It’s all up in the air because I view this as being up to the investors as well. The investors have got to say what they want because without them, there’s no competition.

“And the broadcasters will have to have their say.

“If you want to have a competition that has some funding from outside sources, you’ve got to listen to those who fund it.”

Asked if the preference was League 1 or the new concept, Kleyweg said: “It’s full steam ahead with what I’m talking to you about now.

“If we’ve got the opportunity to play in a European club competition and I’m the working group chair … I’m not going to say there’s no way we’ll do League 1 but it doesn’t make much sense, does it?”

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  1. Glad they dropped the charade. There was literally no financial upside or opportunity with having a Belgrade team in Super League so they were never going to gain entry. The time differences don’t make sense either when it’s already stretched to the max between the East Coast of North America and the West Coast of Europe. The travel costs, logistics and television timing wouldn’t work.

    But there already exists a Balkan Super League. That’s the league that needs to slowly grow to become pan-continental, ideally absorbing other teams from Central and Eastern Europe. It should emulate what the EuroLeague did with basketball and try to develop interest via regional national-rivalries. I thought that was what the BSL were going for.

    In an ideal scenario you would hope there would eventually be three major tournaments in Europe: the RFL/Super League centered in the UK (with a few France and N.A. teams), the FFR13/Elite One centered in France and including teams from Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands and North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia), and the Balkan Super League including the Balkans, Turkey, Italy, German-speaking markets, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

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