Rugby League: League stands firm on venue

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The Independent Online
THE LEAGUE is committed to staging the 2000 Silk Cut Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield despite the news that demolition at Wembley will not begin until August next year. The London stadium was expected to be out of commission by next May, so a decision was made to play the final in Edinburgh, after Twickenham and Cardiff had also been considered.

"We have been in frequent contact with the Wembley authorities and they could give us no guarantee that the stadium would be available," said the RFL's deputy chief executive, Dave Callaghan. "We have committed ourselves to Murrayfield and that is where we will be playing the final in 2000."

It now seems that the code's biggest occasion could be a moveable feast for four seasons. "We were hoping to be back at Wembley for 2003, but it could be 2004," said Callaghan. No decision on venues for the final after Murrayfield have yet been made.

Referees are to be given powers to send-off interlopers from the sidelines. Water-carriers, whose encroachments have been one of the irritants of the modern game, are to be limited to two per team and any interference with the action on the field is to be punished by a warning, followed by dismissal.

Offenders are unlikely to be shown the familiar red and yellow cards, however. They are in line to be scrapped following discussions with coaches and referees.

The referees' controller, Greg McCallum, favours a return to the old system of simply pointing a player towards the dressing-room, holding up the fingers of both hands if he is being sin-binned rather than permanently expelled.

The National Conference League club Ovenden have been expelled for playing a professional under an assumed name. The club, next to last in the Second Division of the competition, have been found guilty of fielding Lee Midgley, a contracted player at Halifax, but said that they were shocked at the severity of their punishment.

Midgley, whose father Robert is the Ovenden chairman, was found to have played under the assumed name of David Graham, who is a former Ovenden player, 12 times but was recognised by opposition teams. The Ovenden secretary, Tony McElroy, said: "We expected something other than expulsion. We are devastated. Along with the fines, this could mean the demise of the club."

Terry Parle, who is chairman of both the National Conference League and the British Amateur Rugby League Association, said: "Ovenden officials freely admitted they had blatantly flaunted the rules of the League and, in fact, had cheated. We had no option but to boot them out of the League with immediate effect."

Halifax, meanwhile, have suffered another setback, with their two most experienced forwards out of action for at least a month. Gary Mercer has a neck injury and Kelvin Skerrett has broken a thumb. Their absences will not help the surprise side of last season to overcome what has so far been a slow start to this campaign.

London Broncos have signed the former Canberra Raiders prop Anthony Seibold. The 23 year old arrived too late to be registered for Sunday's Silk Cut Challenge Cup quarter-final against Whitehaven Warriors but will be in line for a place against Sheffield Eagles in the Super League fixture on 20 March.

Seibold has signed a two-year contract and will fill the gap left by the return to Australia of Marty McKenzie.