Excluded Widnes to tackle League

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The Independent Online
Widnes, the notable losers in the latest restructuring of the Super League proposals, will decide tonight whether to take the Rugby League to court over their exclusion.

Widnes were the one side earmarked for the Super League to be ditched by the reduction to 12 clubs which gained approval on Sunday night. The top 10 clubs in the First Division this season will be joined by the London Broncos and Paris when the Super League kicks off next March. Widnes, in their worst-ever season, finished 14th.

"It's a farce," their chairman, Jim Mills, said. "We were out, then we were merged with Warrington, then we were out, then we were in again - and now we are told that we are out. We will now be having a meeting with lawyers present and will be making a statement on Wednesday."

Widnes are particularly annoyed because of the money they have spent on securing players' and coaches' contracts since they were told that they were in the Super League. "One minute you can be in the Super League, the next you're out," Mills said. "We have put contracts in place in the belief that we were in the Super League and had this money coming."

Widnes, with the help of Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, have spent heavily on retaining the services of John Devereux and both player and club are bound to be angered by the latest turn of events.

Mills said that it took him three-quarters of an hour to battle his way through fans "hugging and kissing" him on the day Widnes were told they were in the Super League. "Now they are telling those same fans that we are not in. It's a disgraceful way to treat the supporters of the game."

Other clubs who were hoping to be in the Super League are more philosophical about their exclusion. The Salford chairman, John Wilkinson, said: "We are very disappointed, but the League were left with no option but to go down a new road. It's now up to us to finish in the top promotion spot next season."

Keighley Cougars, the new Second Division champions whose determination to take the League to court over being denied promotion was one of the stumbling blocks for the Super League, are now considering their next move. Their action against the League is due back in court tomorrow, but the club has asked to see various documents before deciding whether to proceed.

The League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, has appealed for everyone in the game to pull together to make the new plan work, and the signs are that there is now a better chance of consensus.

"More by luck than judgement, they have come up with a formula that is reasonably equitable and quite go-ahead," the chairman of the Rugby League Supporters' Association, Tony Collins, said. "The question is why it has taken us three weeks of sheer hell to get there."

One major area of disgruntlement that remains is among senior players who have not been offered "loyalty money" to sign up with the Super League. Wigan are still trying to placate Shaun Edwards, while Leeds' Garry Schofield is predicting that leading players left out of the bonanza might contemplate striking.

One of Wigan's Wembley try-scorers, Va'aiga Tuigamala, will miss the Premiership play-offs after flying back to New Zealand for his grandfather's funeral.

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