£300m scheme `excites' League

RUGBY LEAGUE
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The Independent Online
The Rugby League is set to open talks today with Rupert Murdoch and his News Ltd representatives about the formation of a super league to run alongside Murdoch's proposed Star League revolution in Australia. Murdoch is said to be prepared to plough £300m into the leagues in the two hemispheres.

Further details were sketchy before an expected announcement today, but one scenario is for teams based in Paris, Toulouse, Cardiff, London and Manchester to form the backbone of the European competition, which could start up as early as the summer of 1996.

Clubs yesterday gave a provisional welcome to the idea of summer rugby, a prerequisite of the Murdoch scheme going ahead. The Rugby League's media manager, Paul Harrison, said: "News Ltd executives have flown in. The English Rugby League has been following developments in Australia and is excited by them. We are keen to talk to their representatives, because we share their vision of taking rugby league to the world."

Whether the northern hemisphere operation is based across Europe or purely in Britain, the plan is for the winners to play the Australian champions in a World Championship at the end of each season. Many other questions remain to be answered, however, including what happens to the game below super league level if Murdoch succeeds in taking over.

A battle for power is going on in Australia, with another media mogul, Kerry Packer, backing the Australian Rugby League's attempts to fight off Murdoch's unwelcome attentions.

The super league dispute claimed the job of the Illawarra coach, Graham Murray, yesterday. The Illawarra club board sacked Murray claiming he had not acted in the best interests of the club. Murray's sacking was yesterday's second super league casualty, following the resignation of the Cronulla football manager, Shane Richardson, who admitted he had been involved in recruiting players for the breakaway competition.

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