The British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA) is the governing body for social and recreational rugby league in the United Kingdom. It works joinly with the Rugby Football League (the overall governing body of rugby league in the UK) by means of the RFL Community Board.

BARLA was created in 1973 in Huddersfield by a group of enthusiasts to deal with the dramatic disappearance of many amateur leagues and clubs. There were fewer than 150 amateur teams with youth rugby teams down to as little as thirty sides. The ‘breakaway' from the RFL was acrimonious and was strongly contested by the professional game. However thanks to the late Tom Mitchell, a vote 29-1 against recognising BARLA was turned round within twelve months to an unanimous vote of approval for the newly born ‘BARLA baby'.

They run many leagues, mainly based in the 'heartland' areas of the sport (Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria). The top division under their control is the National Conference League. Twenty-six years later there are more than 1400 teams and 900 youth and junior teams. On an average weekend in the season, almost 23,000 players will be in action.

BARLA selects an international team consisting of amateur players, the BARLA Lions. This team tour many parts of the rugby league world, and have competed in the Rugby League Emerging Nations Tournament. Previously amateur international games were limited solely to annual exchanges with France, In 1977 BARLA extended its boundaries 12,000 miles to take in Australia and New Zealand. In that year the BARLA Young Lions made their first inaugural tour setting a lasting trend by giving future stars of the game such as David Hobbs their first taste of international rugby league.

The association have made 31 tours to and from the Southern Hemisphere. These include pioneer visits to Fiji, Western Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands and South Africa. Indeed in 1993 BARLA provided the first Great Britain team to tour South Africa. In the Northern Hemisphere games have been played against Moldavia, Russia, Morocco and the USA. In one 12-month period BARLA played international games in no less than 13 countries. The International Board was delighted with BARLA's role in the international expansion of the game and that work has been recognised by BARLA's inclusion as affiliate members of the International Board's 1999 counterpart the International Federation and furthermore by BARLA's inclusion in the Emerging Nations World Championship in 2000.

The association has always been a champion of the amateur ethos and in 1987 BARLA played a major role in the establishment of the ‘free gangway' between the two codes at amateur level. The agreement allowed players to inter-change between rugby League and rugby union without fear of discrimination.

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