Crisis looms at Wakefield with hearing called over unpaid tax

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Wakefield are facing the prospect of a winding-up petition from the tax authorities just 10 days before the start of the Super League season.

The Wildcats have staved off two previous petitions from HM Revenue and Customs, but have now been ordered to face a winding-up order in the High Court on 2 February, over unpaid National Insurance and VAT.

"We have been in dialogue with HMRC for a number of weeks and are disappointed that this petition has been served, as we were hopeful of reaching a payment plan with them," the club said in a statement yesterday.

If the club is forced into administration, it will inevitably suffer a points deduction before what is already looming as a crisis season.

Wakefield have been frustrated in their attempts to make progress towards a new stadium, without which their Super League licence is in jeopardy.

Last week they appealed to supporters for £500,000 to keep them going, through a new share issue.

Crusaders, who have already been docked four points for going into administration, have reassured their new coach, Iestyn Harris, that there is money available to strengthen a depleted squad.

Harris has been told to shop around for reinforcements. "I don't think it's a shoestring budget," said the club's chief executive, Rod Findlay. "I think we'll be competitive."

Crusaders play the Catalan Dragons in France tonight in their second pre-season friendly. Tomorrow's warm-up games see several notable debuts.

Brett Hodgson and Joel Monaghan make their first appearances for Warrington at Leigh. For Monaghan, it will be his first game since leaving Australia in disgrace after appearing in a compromising photograph with a dog.

The Castleford coach, Terry Matterson, has to decide whether to throw the club's new centre, Willie Isa from the Melbourne Storm, in against Batley less than 48 hours after landing in the country. Nick Fozzard is the more likely to make his debut for the Tigers.