Rugby League: Broncos look to change home

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The Independent Online
THE LONDON Broncos are exploring the possibilities of moving to another ground for the 2000 season after being told by the local council that they cannot use the floodlights at The Stoop for televised Sunday night games.

The Broncos, Harlequins' tenants at the ground since 1997, will first run into the problem on 9 May, when they are due to play Castleford. Local residents' campaigning means that they will have to move that match to a different venue, with three of their former homes, at Fulham, Charlton and Brentford in the running.

They will also consider Watford, where Great Britain played a Test against New Zealand in November, and where the Bradford Bulls' former marketing guru, Peter Deakin, has been similarly successful at filling seats on behalf of Saracens.

"But we will play the rest of the season at The Stoop," said the Broncos' spokesman, Christian Hauff. "We are contracted here for this season, but we will be looking for somewhere else after that."

The club's original home at Craven Cottage, The Valley and Griffin Park all have their advantages as a new base, but Deakin's desire to run a rugby league team out of Vicarage Road makes a move north a definite possibility.

"It is quite wrong to say that we are moving out this season, or that we are furious with the council, whose problems we understand," said Hauff.

Wigan have denied that their captain, Andy Farrell, will miss the start of the season because of the groin injury that hampered him during the series against the Kiwis.

Farrell feared that he might need an operation, but now believes that rest has cured the ailment and is in Lanzarote with the rest of the first team squad on a pre-season training camp.

Wigan hope to complete the signing of the 23-year-old utility player, Mark Reber, from North Sydney, next week.

Hull have completed their overseas quota and probably their overall recruitment for the coming season by signing Michael Smith, the New Zealander who played at prop and second row for Castleford last season. The Hull coach, Peter Walsh, said: "He's a big, strong guy who goes forward and that's what we lacked last year."

A survey conducted by the Rugby League Supporters' Association has revealed that almost three-quarters of those asked both want to see Super League expand and the Rugby Football League to be in sole control of the game.

A sample of more than 1,300 fans also came out solidly against squad numbering and any suggestion of a merger with rugby union under hybrid rules.