Commentary Box Sports has been alerted to statements by the official rugby union federation in Turkey – Turkiye Ragbi Federasyonu – threatening to ban players if they participate in rugby league games.
The Turkish Rugby League competition was launched with five clubs on Christmas Day in 2016. Kadikoy Bulls became the inaugural premiers after defeating Eskisehir Warriors earlier this year. The Turkish Rugby League Association was subsequently awarded observer status by the Rugby League European Federation.
— Phil Caplan (@scratchingshed2) March 23, 2017
Turkiye Ragbi Federasyonu have stated that the Federation is the only official representative of rugby in Turkey, and therefore any sport with the name rugby in it belongs to them in what could be seen as an aggressive takeover tactic.
They have also warned that “players are strongly advised not to take part in any matches not officially sanctioned by the Rugby Federation.”
The federation has offered to meet with Turkey Rugby League officials in the next few days with an “offer they can’t refuse.”
Those close to the sport in Turkey feel this is simply a power grab from Turkiye Ragbi Federasyonu, who have been suspended from international competition by Rugby Europe.
There is also a fear that the rugby federation are only interested in international rugby league matches and domestic rugby league development will suffer.
Around 70 percent of Turkish rugby league players also play rugby union. This would potentially devastate the recently established domestic RL competition if players were restricted to playing one code only.
It is almost certain that Turkey will be forced to withdraw from the Balkan Cup rugby league competition in Belgrade, Serbia next month if the ban goes ahead.
This is not the first time that rugby union has attempted to flex its muscles over the rival code in countries where both are at the development stage. In 2015 Sol Mokdad, Head of United Arab Emirates Rugby League at the time, was arrested and imprisoned for “unauthorised representation of the UAE sovereignty” after the UAE Rugby Federation initiated actions against him.
More information is likely to be known in the next week when officials from both federations meet to discuss these developments.