Why Was It illegal To Play Rugby League In Greece?

London (Parliament Politics Magazine) – George Stilianos started taking interest in the Rugby league despite knowing about certain disadvantages. He was born in Australia and became a fan of this league. According to him, he used to watch Rugby League with his father. However, his father was afraid that he will get hurt while playing it. His parents were Greek and after completing his studies he booked his flight to his hometown.

Around that time the Hellenic Federation of Rugby League (HFRL) was governing Rugby League in Greece. However, after a financial scandal, they were thrown out of the Rugby league. Stilianos came as the ‘breakthrough’ and helped lift the ban on Rugby League in Greece.

Why Was Rugby League Illegal In Greece?

Rugby League is considered a dirty little secret in Greece. Thanks to George Stilianos who introduced this game in Greece. Due to a financial scandal Rugby league was banned in Greece. However, it didn’t stop George and his fellow players to get distracted. They decided to continue playing the game till it becomes legal for them. No doubt they had to face a lot of barriers but turned out to be successful in the end.

As Rugby League wasn’t completely outlawed it helped them safely train and recruit other team members. However, they were not allowed to play on a common or public field. The fields that are owned by Greek Government have set restrictions not playing Rugby. According to George: “We sometimes took the risk and a couple of times we got into trouble because of that’’. He continued, ‘we had to get creative and play games out of town’’

It was hard for them to dodge the police and adopt hidden ways to practice for the game. At the time of international matches, they used to practice hard. The GRLA gained worldwide recognition and the team could play for the qualifiers. They soon became part of international Rugby League cups. For one of the very important games, their team flew to Athens. According to George:

‘The field owners were fully booked until 11 pm and we said we will take it. Sure enough, we got there and a few matches had been delayed, it wasn’t until midnight that the field was free, it kicked off at 12:15.”

Why Is Rugby League Legal Now?

The hard work and international recognition of George and his team, helped them get legal status. He gathered all the important documents and presented them to the Greek Government. It helped them get legal status for GRLA but didn’t get any positive reply from the Government. He tells his story by stating these details:

“In Greece, if you have got all the papers and everything they have asked for it can sit on a desk for three years and not even get looked at.” As the time when World Cup in the UK was approaching soon, the President decided to take a bigger step. George decided to get help from the ambassador of Greece and told him to intervene. Along with British and Australian ambassadors, it was easy to get Greece involved in the Rugby League.

The ministry of Sport was ready to look into all these details. Greece didn’t get to perform well at the Rugby World Cup. They lost matches to France, Samoa, and England. Although they couldn’t arrive back home with a trophy they had a sigh of relief. In Greece that has no fear of getting arrested at least. Good things certainly happen for Greece and they could make this sport legal for many.

Read More: Are Knuckle Dusters Illegal In the UK?

Greece Has Played Many Matches As Compared To Other Nations

Interestingly, Greece has played much more matches as compared to any other nation. They wanted to qualify for the World Cup which was to happen in 2021. However, all the plans changed due to the pandemic. Many of the home games were interrupted by the police. In 2018 they have beaten Malta 60-4 in Athens. 

They topped this group in the initial phase of qualifying. Thankfully this game could take place without any issues. In Greece, nothing runs on time and this match also started very late. Even though the team members were complaining they still fought to make their way into the game. Despite facing all the threats from authorities, George Stilianos formed a successful Rugby team. There are around 200 rugby players in Greece that includes women’s teams as well. All the matches and fixtures were planned in secret even during the pandemic.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.