Crusaders and Salford get Super League nod

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The Independent Online

Celtic Crusaders and Salford have been awarded places in Super League for 2009-2011.

The Rugby Football League today announced the 14 clubs that have been granted licences to play in the elite competition from next season.

All 12 existing clubs have been retained with the Bridgend-based Crusaders and ambitious National League One side Salford also included.

Salford were quick to express their joy at the decision.

A club statement read: "Salford City Reds are delighted to be back in engage Super League.

"The club had every confidence in its licence application, which was a comprehensive review of all aspects of club operations.

"The granting of a licence based on those documents is testimony that the game's governing body approves of the professional manner in which Salford City Reds currently operates on and off the field.

"We would like to take the opportunity to thank the executive directors at the RFL for their decision which secures the future ambitions of Salford City Reds for the 2009 season and beyond."

The unsuccessful clubs, and others, will have the chance to reapply when licences are awarded for 2012-2014. The RFL have set no upper limit on numbers so the competition could again be expanded to 15 or 16 clubs.

Widnes had been among the front-runners to be included this time and chairman Steve O'Connor, who rescued the club from financial ruin last year, insists the club will bounce back.

O'Connor said: "We've only just been informed of the RFL's decision, which is obviously deeply disappointing to the board, officials, players and fans of this great club.

"We now need to sit down and assess the full implications of this ruling over the next few days. However, it is important that our fans are reassured that I am fully committed to Widnes Vikings.

"There was great competition for these 14 licences and some of the applicants were bound to lose out at the end of the day.

"I feel it is vital for the game as a whole that the Super League flourishes under this new licence system and I'm still convinced that Widnes Vikings have all the credentials to become a powerful force in Super League.

"We must build on the solid foundations we have laid down over the past eight months and prepare an absolutely irresistible licence application for the future."

The Crusaders, Salford and Widnes were all thought to have submitted strong applications but including them all would have meant dropping one of the existing number.

Castleford and Wakefield were thought to be the clubs most under threat but both were given votes of confidence.

Richard Lewis, the RFL's executive chairman, said: "This is a historic day for rugby league and we are once again being innovative and leading the way in British sport by implementing a licensing system that will improve standards both on and off the field in the elite competition.

"We believe licensing has already served to galvanise the sport, stimulating clubs into addressing the issues of facility improvements, spectator comfort and the production of more players.

"Fundamentally, and at its heart, licensing promotes improvement in standards across the board.

"It creates stability and yet crucially keeps open the route into Super League for all aspiring clubs who can demonstrate the required standard. It is a better and fairer way of a club entering engage Super League."