Neighbours can agree on nothing

RUGBY IN TURMOIL: Union mesmerised by money as League grapples with mergers
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The Independent Online
BY DAVE HADFIELD

The difficulties lurking behind the concept of club mergers have been underlined by a six-hour meeting between Oldham and Salford which failed to reach agreement on any point.

The two chairmen, Jim Quinn of Oldham and Salford's John Wilkinson, emerged to admit that they could not agree on where the proposed team should play, what it should be called, who should coach it or what the make-up of its board should be.

That sort of deadlock, which seems likely to be mirrored in the other arranged marriages that are necessitated by Rupert Murdoch's Super League take-over, could only be resolved by arbitration by the Rugby League - and there is no guarantee that the "loser" under that arbitration would accept the verdict.

As far as the name of an amalgamated Salford and Oldham club is concerned, local humour insists it must be called Soldham - as in "Soldham down the river".

Featherstone Rovers, earmarked to merge with Wakefield and Castleford to form Calder, have come up with an ingenious alternative. The three clubs and others not strong enough to enter the Super League in their own right would continue to play in the winter and act as feeder clubs for new Super League operations.

Ironically two of the sides not listed for merger seem to be making faster progress towards that than anyone. Bradford Northern and Halifax have had serious talks on the subject.

The chairman of the Australian Rugby League and of the game's international board, Ken Arthurson, has brought his battle against Murdoch to Britain. In an open letter to rugby league followers in this country, Arthurson insists that in the 400 players who have pledged their loyalty to the ARL, there is "enough talent to run a healthy and attractive competition now and in the future."

The letter accuses Murdoch of using the British game as a tool with which to weaken the ARL and pours scorn on its claim to be able to provide meaningful international competition. "What will they be playing for? Certainly not the Ashes," Arthurson said. "If their plan is successful, they will have finished Test matches for ever."

Arthurson also said the Centenary World Cup this October was "under threat", although serious planning for accommodating a media presence of up to 120 began yesterday.

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