Rugby League: Bramley in need of 'miracle' to ensure survival: Merger may be answer

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BRAMLEY will go ahead with their fixture against Huddersfield on Sunday, but need 'a miracle' before their next home game if one of the sport's oldest-established clubs is to survive.

Bramley, who first played in the league in 1896, have had an application for planning permission for shops on their McLaren Field ground turned down by Leeds City Council. The club now say that they cannot carry on there.

'The ground is archaic and the cost of bringing it up to standard would be more than building a new ground,' Ronnie Teeman, one of the club's directors, said. 'If we had got planning permission, we could have soldiered on until the end of the season, but now we could be out on the streets.'

Bramley do not have a home Second Division match until 2 January, but a victory at Carlisle in the third round of the Regal Trophy on 12 December and a home draw against a big club the following week would leave them unable to stage the match.

The club will appeal against the planning decision, but that process could take more than a year. Other avenues will have to be considered and one of them will be a possible merger with Hunslet, who are expecting to come under pressure to leave Elland Road, where they are joint tenants with Leeds United.

'Miracles do happen,' Teeman said, but the alternative to a miracle or a merger may well be closure. Bramley, who joined what was then the Northern Union in 1896, the year after the split from the Rugby Union, would be the first truly established club to go to the wall in the modern era.

They have won only one trophy, the Floodlit Trophy in 1974, and are currently bottom of the Second Division without a win this season.

Ironically, Huddersfield, the table-topping side they play on Sunday, have almost as uncertain a future. They are in the hands of the receiver and are up for sale, and the widespread fear in the game is that the loss of one traditional, heartland club will rapidly lead to others.

The Rugby League is to review the role of players' agents in the game following representations from Widnes at its Council meeting this week. Widnes are perturbed over the case of their prop, Harvey Howard, who stayed away from the club for three months after a summer stint in Australia. The Council formally re-elected Rodney Walker to its board of directors, following his resignation as chairman of Wakefield Trinity last week.

The St Helens stand-off, Tea Ropati, has suffered a reaction to an Achilles tendon injury in training, and is unlikely to face Hull tonight.