RUGBY LEAGUE Lindsay begins expansion talks

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The Independent Online


The prospect of a professional side in the North-East moves a stage closer today with discussions between Maurice Lindsay, the Rugby League's chief executive, and Sir John Hall, the chairman of Newcastle United.

The football club has already expressed an interest in entering a side in the league and the latest version of the Super League blueprint leaves open the possibility of such an entry being accommodated.

The game would not be starting from scratch on Tyneside. There are already 11 open-age amateur sides in the area, as well as seven junior clubs and more than 35 schools playing the game, from Alnwick in the north to Middlesbrough in the south.

"A professional side at Newcastle United could be a great catalyst," Michael Hogan, the Rugby League's North-East development officer, said.

"They would need gates of around 5,000 to make it worthwhile, but I think they could do that. I think football fans would come and watch rugby league; it's still the club, still the toon."

Developments in the North-East have so far been focused on Gateshead, where the International Stadium has hosted two Charity Shields and internationals between Great Britain Under-21s and Australia, and England and France.

Gateshead is to enter a side in the Academy competition for under-19 players next season, but they reacted coolly to a suggestion from Ryedale- York that they would play half their home games in Gateshead from next season.

"The important thing is that a professional side here should be complementary to the development that is taking place," Hogan said.

The St Helens captain, Shane Cooper, has been ordered to appear before a disciplinary hearing tomorrow, after a complaint from Halifax of an alleged attack on their forward, Martin Ketteridge, that left the player with a suspected broken nose and requiring stitches.