Chris backs RFL

Date published: Monday, October 14, 2013

LIKE most owners and chairmen outside Super League, Oldham chief Chris Hamilton is backing the RFL in a power struggle that threatens to split the sport down the middle in the run-up to the World Cup.

Doncaster’s Carl Hall, Halifax’s Michael Steele and Dewsbury’s Mark Sawyer have also reacted strongly to a late revolt by a majority of Super League clubs against RFL plans to restructure the game and reintroduce promotion and relegation.

Leading the Super League standoff is Wigan Warriors owner Ian Lenagan, who successfully called for the postponement of an extraordinary general meeting of the Rugby League Council last week at which extensive and far-reaching RFL proposals were expected to be rubber-stamped.

An angry Hall, who owns Doncaster, raged: “Who the hell does Ian Lenagan think he is. For him to have the meeting called off at such a late hour and to say he hadn’t been informed about anything is nonsense. If he wants to run the Rugby League he should leave Wigan and try to do it.

“I fully support the RFL, but I’m not happy at the cancellation of a big meeting on the back of one individual’s comments.”

Key proposals to shake up the game are now in the ‘pending’ tray until after the World Cup amid fears in the two Championship divisions that, at best, it could mean radical changes are delayed for an extra year.

The sport is currently in limbo as clubs wait for news on what the future holds.

Hamilton, who has been fighting Oldham’s corner at the RFL for the past 16 years, said that, while urging caution all round, he regretted recent events that had caused proposals designed to benefit the game as a whole to be put on hold.

These proposals, he said, followed extensive consultations with all stakeholders in the sport and at the end of such a lengthy process it was “particularly disappointing” that Mr Lenagan had undermined all the progress that had been made with the timing of his intervention only two days before the meeting.

And he added in a prepared statement: “Considerable progress was being made via a policy review. The proposed changes, in my opinion, offer a suitable way forward for the entire game.

“They won’t suit every club’s needs in every respect, and that includes Oldham, but we have to look at the bigger picture and create a pathway on which we can develop this great game that we all care so much about.

“I’ve been in the game a long time and I recall the days when club representation at RFL board level was seen as a real problem that stopped the sport moving forward. I urge everybody to be mindful of the dangers of going back to those days.

“One of the great beacons of rugby league is its independent RFL board, as recognised by Sport England, who provide key funding.

“While the Oldham club accepts that the sport must now focus totally on a successful World Cup, one hopes that as soon as possible it will again come together to move forward collectively.”

Halifax’s Steele branded Wigan and the Super League clubs which lined up behind the Warriors as ‘self centred’ while Dewsbury’s Sawyer said the Rams were not entirely supportive of the proposals but were happy to go along with the governing body for the good of the game.