FIRA - Association of European Rugby
|Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby|
The FIRA – Association Européenne de Rugby (FIRA–AER) is the administrative body for rugby union in Europe. It was formed in 1999 to promote, develop, organise and administer the game of rugby in Europe under the authority of the International Rugby Board (the world governing body of rugby union).
The predecessor to FIRA–AER was the Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA). FIRA was formed in 1934 to promote, develop, organise and administer the game of rugby union in Europe outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (as the International Rugby Board was then called), and quickly came to spread outside the continent. FIRA agreed to come under the auspices of the IRB in the 1990s, changed its name and returned to being a European body.
Until its eventual merger with the IRB, FIRA was the most multinational rugby organisation in the world, partly because the IRB had concentrated on the English speaking Home Nations, Tri Nations along with France. FIRA has generally been a positive force in spreading sport beyond the Anglosphere.
The highest level of rugby competition played among European countries is the Six Nations Championship, contested every year in February and March, by England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy -- all countries routinely ranked in the Top 15 in the world. The tournament began in 1883, and is the oldest international rugby tournament. The tournament has been known as the Six Nations Championship since 2000, when Italy joined; it had previously been known as the Five Nations. There is no promotion or relegation, and since 2000, no country has entered or left the Six Nations.
The next highest level of international rugby played by European countries is the European Nations Cup Division 1A, which is contested by six countries -- Georgia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium -- all of which are ranked in the Top 25 in the world. Of these six countries, all but Belgium have been in Division 1A since 2007, and all but Belgium have played in a Rugby World Cup. There is promotion and relegation between the ENC Division 1A and lower divisions. In total, the ENC has seven divisions, all of which have promotion and relegation.
Other international competitions
The following table shows the professional rugby union competitions in various European countries.
|Pro 12|| Ireland (4), Wales (4)
Scotland (2), Italy (2)
|Rugby Pro D2||France||2||2000||16||243||1,025,910||4,222|||
- Average attendances vary significantly by country within the Pro 12 -- Ireland (12,347), Wales (8,136), Scotland (4,570), and Italy (2,744).
- The English Premiership and French Top 14 both turned professional in 1996. Two Italian teams joined the Celtic League (re-named the Pro 12) in 2010.
44 Unions are full IRB members
2 Unions are associate IRB members
2 Unions are not affiliated with the IRB
FIRA (1934 - 1999)
In 1931, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was suspended from playing against the other IRB nations, because the sport’s authorities had suspected for many years that the (FFR) was allowing the abuse of the rules on amateurism. As a result, Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) was founded in 1934. It was designed to organise rugby union outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (as it was known at the time). The founder members were Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Catalonia, Romania and Germany.
In 1965, FIRA inaugurated the FIRA Nation's Cup, and in 1974 the FIRA Championship, later renamed the European Nations Cup (ENC). The ENC provided international competition for European countries outside the Five Nations. The ENC was played in three divisions, including virtually every country in Continental Europe. The ENC later expanded its horizons, taking in Morocco, Tunisia and other non-European countries. The ENC first division competition was won most often by France, but Romania won it at least five times, Italy once or twice and the Soviet Union won it once. France and Italy no longer play in the ENC, as both countries now play in the Six Nations Champsionship.
FIRA–A.E.R. (1999 - present)
In 1990s the FIRA recognised the IRB as the governing body of rugby union world wide and after negotiations with the IRB, it agreed to integrate itself within the IRB. In 1999 it changed its name to "FIRA – Association of European Rugby" (FIRA–AER.), to promote and rule over rugby union in the European area and to run the junior world championship. FIRA-AER. organised both the under-19 and under-21 world championships until IRB folded them into the under-20 Junior World Championship and Junior World Trophy in 2008.
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