North American Rugby League to kick off in June: organizers

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A new professional rugby league competition in North America will kick off in June, organisers said Wednesday

A new 14-team professional rugby league competition involving teams across North America will kick off later this year, organizers said Wednesday.

The North American Rugby League will comprise 12 teams from the United States and two from Canada, and is due to kick off on June 19-20.

The US teams will be divided into two conferences based on geography, with six teams in an East Coast Conference and six competing in a West Coast conference. Two Canadian teams -- Toronto Wolfpack and Ottawa Aces -- will join the East Coast Conference in 2022.

A statement from NARL said all games in each conference will be played at a single venue on the same day with no fans in attendance in order to mitigate the risks from Covid-19.

"I'm delighted to introduce the North American Rugby League to rugby league fans around the world in what we firmly believe is the next big evolutionary step for rugby league," NARL chief executive Robert Curtis said in a statement.

"The NARL is the culmination of years of research and market testing and has been designed to bring you the hardest hitting, fastest and most exciting sport on the planet."

The United States already has a domestic rugby league competition, the USA Rugby League (USARL), made up of 12 teams based in the eastern half of the country. The new season is due to kick off on June 5.

In the NARL statement, chief execuitve Curtis denied the new league was a rival to the USARL.

"We see NARL as an addition to the existing rugby league structures in the United States and certainly do not see ourselves as a 'rival' or 'rebel' league," Curtis said.

"Our sole aim is to grow the fantastic sport of rugby league in North America and create a legacy for generations to come."

Rugby league has been played in the United States since the 1950s, though club competitions have a fractured history, with the USARL's founder members splitting from the American National Rugby League in 2011.

International Test matches have also been staged on US soil, notably a 2018 game between New Zealand and England in Denver which attracted 19,320 spectators.