RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer says supporters would be surprised by the array of League 1 applications he’s fielded from clubs based “far afield”.
Red Star hit the headlines last week when they announced their intentions to push for entry into the UK pro ranks in 2021.
But Rimmer says the Belgrade club are one of a number being considered.
He said: “There’s a little way to go with Red Star, but they have been in contact with us, and they are an ambitious club.
“It was the magic of the Challenge Cup that introduced them last year, at Millom, and it was a stunning occasion which was played out well on TV.
“There’s some work to do on them, of course, but, nevertheless, I’ve got a few applications on my desk.
“Applications from teams that are far afield, who have seen what the Wolfpack have done, and that’s helped oil the wheels a little bit.
“You’d be surprised if you went through the applications on the desk, of which Red Star is one.”
Rimmer declined to name the clubs in question, but believes their interest is extremely positive for the sport.
“If they want to share their own names then that’s up to them, but I’m not going to do it for them.
“But it can do nothing but give us confidence and the broadcasters are interested in that as well.
“What we want going into a broadcast competition is interest in it, and we want people to want to join it.
“I’ve been involved in the game for 30 years professionally and I don’t remember a point ever when we have had so much interest in joining our competition.
“30 years ago, the thought of Toronto Wolfpack playing in the competition; people would have just thought you were completely bonkers.
“We stand here today with the winner of the Woman of Steel competition, with Toulouse on stage, the Broncos on stage, with Red Star, Ottawa and New York all wanting to join, surely people must think we’re doing something right.”
Rimmer also revealed that a decision regarding Ottawa and New York’s prospective admission into League 1 next season can be expected sooner rather than later.
“A decision on Ottawa and New York will be reasonably quick.
“We’ve spoken to both of those clubs and we know what’s expected and I think there will be announcements pretty quickly.
“Despite the fact we’ve given the terms and conditions expected, they’ll still have a lot of work to do between now and kick-off next year.
“It’ll be imminent.”
With so much overseas interest in joining the RFL’s hierarchy, Rimmer was quick to emphasise the governing body’s commitment to its so-called ‘traditional’ clubs.
He confirmed: “We never do anything without consulting with the clubs, because that wouldn’t be a very smart way to run the business.
“The clubs are supportive and we asked for that support from them.
“But what it also does, and they would admit to this, is it keeps those clubs on their toes.
“We’ve introduced this return on investment piece, which means the clubs get rewarded for doing the right things and growing the sport.
“We know as a whole that this gives us value when it comes to broadcast negotiations, whatever that happens to be.
“All of those clubs are charged with the responsibility of growing their individual clubs and we give them practice, and they take good practice off each other in order to do that.
“Providing those things are being done then they are valued members of the competitions.
“And we apply the same criteria to any overseas clubs as well.”
He added: “The RFL’s responsibility is not to develop Rugby League in Canada, not to develop it in the Ukraine, or Russia, or Spain, it is to hit its own corporate objectives.
“However, if, when we measure ourselves through participants, viewers, spectators, governance, commercial value, if those clubs we are referring to give us the opportunity to help achieve our objectives then they could find themselves on the way in.
“But if they don’t then it’s just a vanity project somewhere else.”
Meanwhile, Rimmer says he’d support the eventual creation of a ‘break-away’ competition featuring North American clubs, but was quick to warn advocates of this concept that it is impossible to simply place clubs in new areas to create a league.
“Ideally, Canadian clubs breaking away and forming their own league would be fantastic, or perhaps something that ran parallel with some cross-over in the middle.
“But let’s not run before we can walk, and I’ve been through this, you can never choose where you want a team – you can’t do it.
“You can’t put a pin in a map and say ‘we want a team in Colorado’, it doesn’t work, somebody has to come to us with some resource, some Rugby League intelligence and some support.
“That’s when the plans start to come together, and you can point as many times as you want at where you might want a club, but if you haven’t got those things then it isn’t going to happen.
“I think we have some exciting prospects ahead, and breakaways in the future may or may not take place, but in the mean time we’re in the here and now, which is promoting RFL objectives.”