Rugby League: Gateshead fold as League agrees merger

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SUPER LEAGUE clubs yesterday gave their unanimous backing for a merger between Gateshead and Hull Sharks. The move brings to an end Super League rugby in Gateshead as the newly-formed club will play in Hull. The merger's acceptance means the new club will receive pounds 1.25m over two years.

Super League issued a statement confirming the merger and stressing that the payment to the new club will satisfy the creditors of Hull and Gateshead. As a result of the merger, David Lloyd no longer has any involvement with or ownership of the company. The merged team will play Super League matches in Hull, initially at The Boulevard and then at the planned new stadium in the west of the city. The existing playing squad and administrative staff from Gateshead will transfer operations to Hull and join forces with the remaining players and staff there.

Andrew Whitelam, a Super League spokesman, said: "The clubs recognised this was an extremely important matter, and the final decision was not taken lightly. They gave unanimous support to the merger after considering every possible option to keep Super League in the north-east and to keep the Hull club alive.

"It was decided the merger is in the best interests of rugby league in all parts of the country."

Gateshead's chief executive Shane Richardson said: "This was an extremely tough decision to make. But, after all the deliberations, it was decided there was no other option open. The newly-merged club will do all it can to support grass roots and junior rugby league in the north-east. I think it has been shown that the Gateshead area was not yet ready for a Super League team.

"I am hugely disappointed on a personal level and I would like to sincerely thank all those people who got behind the Gateshead club. At the end of the day the resources are just not there at this stage."

A special general meeting of the RFL Council has been called for 7 December to ratify the merger, with the new club expected to be named Hull FC.

Meanwhile, Council delegates refused an application from Sheffield Eagles to enter the Northern Ford Premiership. Clubs voted 16-14 to reject a bid from Eagles' veteran scrum-half Mark Aston but agreed to welcome the new club for the 2000-01 campaign. Clubs also finally closed the door on Hunslet's bid for promotion to Super League.