It was something that in hindsight was a long time coming. North American Rugby League (NARL) had already dropped from two Conferences to one a few weeks ago - but now, the first professional Rugby League competition across the pond will not happen this year.
The following statement was released on the official NARL social media accounts.
“The North American Rugby League (NARL) announced today that it will now launch in the Spring of 2022.
“In March 2021 the NARL made public their intention to bring professional rugby league to North America with the introduction of a new league and starting line-up of 14 teams from across the United States and Canada.
“The original launch date of June 19th, 2021 was scheduled; however, several factors have made this overly ambitious.
“Inflated travel and insurance costs along with rigorous health and safety restrictions have already seen a need to rationalize the proposed structure for the West Coast, and now the NARL has taken the prudent and measured steps of delaying the full competition until the Spring of 2022.
“This additional time will also benefit the sponsors”
“The NARL understands the importance of optimal delivery in every aspect of the competition for its founding year and will take this opportunity for organizational restructuring as well as welcoming new board members and investors into the fold.
“This additional time will also benefit the sponsors. The competition has attracted a number of global brands who are extremely enthusiastic to partner with the NARL since we announced the launch earlier this year. This extension will allow these partnerships to be developed and delivered with a more targeted and measured approach.
The NARL Chief Operating Officer Robert Curtis stated, “We as an organization came forward with tremendous enthusiasm and relentless motivation. In the process we were greeted by an incredible response from supporters and rugby league fans who wished us well and were excited to see the development of professional rugby league in North America.”
Curtis went on to say, “In our desire to meet the expectations of this new and dynamic attention for the sport we are so eager to grow, we tried to rush operations to put teams on the pitch too early.
“The new schedule gives teams ten extra months to coach and cultivate their talent”
“We are thankful to our amazing fans for their support right out of the gate, we never expected to be embraced so well, so quickly. Moving forward our focus is on creating the best possible product for Spring 2022; exceeding expectations, showcasing the best rugby league, and creating an experience your loyalty deserves.”
“The NARL is committed to supporting all clubs in building their organizations and developing their player pools both internationally and domestically. The new schedule gives teams ten extra months to coach and cultivate their talent and bring awareness of the game to more sports fans across North America.
The NARL and its parties will continue to share their progress and news, as well as their much anticipated online stores launching the next few months in preparation for the 2022 inaugural season.
“We apologize for the disappointment”
“Curtis concluded, “This has been a difficult decision for all involved. We understand that there has been an overwhelming amount of work, support, and cheerleading from independent parties outside of the organization.
We apologize for the disappointment this announcement will bring and thank you, from the league and on behalf of our clubs for your understanding, patience, and continued commitment to growing our great sport in the United States and Canada.
This league and the expansion of the game are very important to all of us, and we believe it is essential we do it right even if that means delaying until next year.”
“There are plans to host a number of exhibition games”
“However, in spite of the postponement it looks like it will remain a busy Summer for the sport in North America. There are plans to host a number of exhibition games in the US, and the Canada Cup clash between Ottawa and Toronto will be sure to give fans a taste of what is to come next year while the NARL continues to work with the Canadian Rugby League, USARL, and the International Rugby League Federations to pursue their goals for 2022.
This is disappointing news for Rugby League fans across the world as the competition received lots of positive feedback and much anticipation back when it was announced in March.
Rugby League as a sport has long since been considered a dwindling and vanishing sport in the UK, with various decisions from the RFL over here at odds with growth for the development of the game. NARL could have changed that - and it could still, but we will have to wait until the Spring of 2022 to see the fourteen teams make their professional debut.