Rugby League: Clubs opt for one division structure

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The Independent Online
CLUBS OUTSIDE Super League will compete in one division next season, following a late about-turn yesterday. The First and Second Division Association had adopted a complex structure, under which 12 First Division clubs played each other home and away and also met Second Division sides away.

However, that format proved the most short-lived of all the game's attempts to get it right in the lower divisions when it was scrapped at a meeting in Dewsbury without ever being put into operation.

Now the 18 FASDA sides will play in a single division, meeting each other twice, except for three opponents that each will only play at home and three away, producing a 28-game season.

There will still be a differential in the pay-outs of FASDA's money from Sky, with former First Division clubs getting pounds 325,000 per season and those from the Second pounds 165,000.

A three-man British delegation to the meeting of the game's international federation in Sydney next week hopes to return with an agreement for a four-team tournament down under next year and a 14 or 16-nation World Cup in Britain in 2000.

The League's chief executive, Neil Tunnicliffe, who will attend the meeting along with the RFL chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, and its performance director, Joe Lydon, wants the winners of the Pacific Cup to play Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand next autumn.

The British delegation will also be seeking approval for the four home nations to compete as separate entities in the World Cup. Tunnicliffe admits that splitting resources between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland would lengthen the odds against a British victory in the tournament, but argues that the development benefits justify the strategy.

Under that blueprint, there would be one home country in each group. That format would open up the possibility of funding from the English Sports Council, to whom the League has applied for support under its World Class Performance Programme.

Britain will also be urging the game to adopt - and stick to - a calendar of tours and international games for the next few years.