BSAC: Tournament in Florence for first UK underwater rugby team

A TEAM of ‘rugby’ players is about to make history – by playing underwater.

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It sounds bizarre but the 10-strong British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) team will travel to Florence for an international underwater rugby tournament, the first time a team from the UK has taken part in a sport which is played in many parts of the world.

The game has little in common with rugby and is played in a pool by two teams of six wearing snorkels and masks. The aim is to get the round ball – filled with sea water so it doesn’t bob to the surface – into the opposition’s basket.

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The driving force behind this little known sport in the UK is Slovakian Oliver Kraus.

He wanted to carry on playing his favourite game when he arrived in London 10 years ago but failed to find a club after months of searching.

Now he has formed the capital city’s first underwater rugby club thanks to the support of BSAC, the governing body for sport diving in the UK.

Oli, 33, who studied at the University of Essex before becoming a database manager, launched PURE Underwater Rugby Club in June last year along with Robert Bonnar, Gemma Witts and Roy Sherwin of the Teddington branch of BSAC and is based at Putney Leisure Centre.

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He said: “Underwater rugby is a brilliant game and I used to play at home in Bratislava, but when I arrived in the UK and looked for a club I simply couldn’t find one.

“It’s a physical game and you need to be fit. Players have to hold their breath for long periods and we get through a lot of cardio work.

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“I was really surprised there were no clubs in the UK, at least not around London. Wherever I have gone, such as Munich, Moscow and even Boston in the US I have managed to find a club and have a game.”

Setting up the club was not easy because the UK is not part of the World Confederation of Underwater Activities which governs sports like underwater rugby.

But a lifeline came from BSAC which allowed the club to operate under its umbrella.

BSAC is made up of 120 dive centres and 1,000 plus family friendly and sociable clubs, run by volunteers, up and down the country and abroad.

It represents around 30,000 snorkellers and scuba divers and provides extensive and safe diver training from beginner to expert. It welcomes membership of divers trained by all other agencies.

Mary Tetley, BSAC Chief Executive, said: “BSAC is always keen to support new and exciting underwater activities such as this because it reflects so much of what our organisation is all about.

“People get into scuba diving and snorkelling with BSAC for so many different reasons. It is a great way to stay fit and healthy, explore a wonderful underwater world and enjoy the water safely.

“I wish the first UK underwater rugby team the best of luck with their first tournament and will be watching with interest to see how this fledgling UK sport will develop with the help of BSAC.”

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Oli said: “Without the help of BSAC we wouldn’t have been able to rent a pool, and insurance costs would have been prohibitive. I am so grateful for all their help and support.”

Fellow founder member Roy Sherwin, a diving and snorkelling instructor and a member of Teddington branch of BSAC, said: “It’s a wonderful fast-moving game and a fabulous way to stay fit. I’m sure the club will go from strength to strength and we will see more people trying the sport.

“We are lucky that Oli has officially introduced this sport to the UK and that he has done so through BSAC. We should all be very proud of him!”

As a member of the BSAC London regional coaching team, Roy has assisted with technical matters regarding safety issues and provided snorkel training.

He is keen to encourage more teams to get started and added: “As soon as that starts happening we can have inter-branch competitions and this would be good fun for all of us.”

All 14 members are now BSAC members and the club would welcome anyone who wants to give the sport a try.

Oli said: “We have a good mix of male and female players including a Finnish girl, who has joined after initially learning to play underwater hockey.”

The club meets every Thursday at 9pm at Putney Leisure Centre.

For more information about BSAC visit and for more information about PURE Underwater Rugby visit the club website at

To watch a PURE Underwater training video visit

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