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Colombia has been granted in-principle approval to host its first International Rugby League event, the South American Championships of 2022.

The event, tentatively scheduled for February 2022, would double as a qualification pathway for the 2022 Americas Cup and the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

The region of Jericó, part of the Southwestern Antioquia region, close to Colombia’s second-largest city Medellín, has submitted a funded bid to host the South American Championships.

While acknowledging the effort of volunteers in organising previous Latin American Championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Asia Pacific Rugby League General Manager Jeremy Edwards noted that the Colombian event would be unlike anything seen before.

For the first time, the tournament will include:

  • International Rugby League recognition as a pathway to the Americas Cup and Rugby League World Cup.
  • A guarantee of an independent draw and independent appointment of match officials.
  • A tournament handbook and participation agreement, binding all participating nations to the same expectations and entitlements.
  • Stringent sanctioning procedures for all games to ensure they are recognised as International Rugby League matches and participating nations earn the appropriate rankings points.
  • Increased conditions around player welfare and standards of hospitality.
  • Documented agreement concerning the number of participating heritage players.

At this stage the guaranteed participants would be Colombia, Brazil and Chile, while other nations such as Argentina and Peru are a possibility if they complete IRL affiliation documentation in time.

Nations north of the Colombia-Panama border will be deemed to belong to North America for World Cup qualification pathways.

“In the past decade South and Central America have provided our sport a strong area of growth,” Edwards said.

“It’s important that we encourage that growth, while at the same time lifting the protocols around event management so one day these nations can hold top-flight events.

“We have a challenging time ahead of us with the continuation of COVID, restrictions on international travel and uncertainty over the World Cup itself, but this commitment gives nations something to look forward to.

“I commend Colombia Rugby League for the initiative they have shown in bidding for the event, and to all participating nations who will grow together during the course of staging the South American Championships.”