Georgian “Black Lion” Amongst European Top Clubs How did we get there – Ioseb (Soso) Tkemaladze, President Georgian Rugby Union
The first professional Rugby club (franchise) from Georgia – Black Lion will compete in the Challenge Cup, the prestigious European Club Rugby competition, which is a great step forward for Georgian Rugby and the country in general.
EPCR the European professional club rugby organization that combines two tournaments in rugby, the Heineken Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, its football equivalent being the UEFA’s Champions Cup and Champions league, accordingly.
Black Lion will start participation form 2023-24 season in December, with the opposition of French Clermont and Castres, Scottish Edinburgh, English Gloucester, and Welsh Scarlets.
The group stage matches a start in December 2023 and continues until May with playoffs before the culmination with finals that will take place in May 2024, at London’s Twickenham Stadium.
These tournaments attract a large number of spectators worldwide, both involving 42 World’s best rugby clubs with 116 matches and played over 8 weekends between December-May. While broadcasting numbers exceed 71 million globally (2022/23 season, over 196 countries), it attracts vast audience form UK, Ireland, France, South Africa, RoW (non EU countries) with over 1.1 million fans. With this participation in the tournament, Georgian Rugby union will be able to host two home games with potential to increase interest and high spending tourism from Western Europe.
How did we get there?
Teamwork makes dreams come true… President of Georgian Rugby Union Ioseb (Soso) Tkemalaze:
“First of all, when I was elected and entered the office of Georgian Rugby, it was in deep crisis with the total budget less then EURO 5 million equivalent and outstanding creditor obligations of more than euro 3 million, – today all the obligations are paid, new sponsor agreements signed, – more sponsors expected, also during past decade Cartu Foundation and Mr. Ivanishvili, the founder, made unprecedented philanthropy with over USD 100 million investment in rugby infrastructure, which spurred fast progress. Our goal is to become World Champions!
I know it takes time and really hard work and me and my new team together with rugby professionals and veterans started to work on realization of this goal. I would underline once again and every time I’m given opportunity to express my gratitude to The Ministry of Sports, The Minister and Georgian Government for the trust and great support, that lead to this great moment for Georgian Rugby and our Country in general. It was due to that strong support that we were able to create the Black Lion, first Georgian professional club, now invited to the EPCR tournament, – huge achievement, of course taking over Rugby Europe’s Super cup twice played a role in this decision. Also, within one year after my election the national team won against Italy, later Wales, and great performance of U20 and U18 National teams, pave the way to the European Club rugby family.
“Every greet journey starts with small step forward “, this quote clearly describes our vision and actions toward realizing the goal that was clearly stated, and it was well shared by Sir Bill Beaumont of the World Rugby rating our achievements and strategic plans by 10 points on 10 point scale.
World Rugby is since extremely supportive and helpful for the development of the Georgian rugby, and in fact, it is developing quite fast. Unity, joint efforts and clear vision of the goals makes any dream come true.”