Rugby League: Lindsay's new role sets off alarm bells

Maurice Lindsay was paraded yesterday like a club's new signing, the man they used to jeer but were now free to admit they thought was wonderful all along.

Lindsay's transfer from his role as chief executive of the Rugby League to his new one as managing director of Super League was ratified by the elite clubs at Headingley.

That left Lindsay and the organisation's chairman, Chris Caisley, to explain that, contrary to appearances, they had always been firm allies. Caisley, formerly one of Lindsay's most trenchant critics, said: "I don't want to talk about the past, but despite the fact that we've had our disagreements when it's come to critical issues we have been of one mind."

Lindsay himself, safely repositioned after being shunted out of his previous job, welcomed the opportunity to concentrate entirely on the flagship of the British game. "My energies will be devoted to Super League, but that does not mean that I'm not concerned about the success of the game as a whole," he said.

For all that, the sight of the unholy alliance of Lindsay and Caisley, the two heaviest hitters in the game, will ring alarm bells in the lower divisions, where they will inevitably fear under greater threat of being cut out of the deal with News Limited that ensures many of the clubs' survival.

Lindsay, however, denied that he would be using his new position to seek revenge against individuals or clubs who had manoeuvred him out of his old job. Nor did he think he would have any difficulties working alongside former colleagues at headquarters, where he will be based for the immediate future.

"If you can't be mature, polite and professional over things like that, you shouldn't take up senior positions," he said. "I don't take back anything I've said about the need to drive Super League forward, but there is no need for obvious opposition to particular individuals."

Caisley, also chairman of the Bradford Bulls, said that the sponsorships he hopes Lindsay's presence will help to attract would benefit the whole game. He warned, however, that he would not be willing to see Super League held back by decisions made at the Rugby League Council, the governing body on which lower division clubs can still outvote the elite.

Super League will want a large say in the renegotiation of the contract with News Limited, before the current one ends in 2000. The good news for the other clubs is that neither Lindsay nor Caisley would object to them cutting their own television deal, which could lead to financial independence.

Caisley revealed that the League was paying dearly for Lindsay's move. It will cost the organisation some pounds 250,000 a year to finance him and his personal assistant as well as Colin Myler, the chief executive.

It was Myler who last week described Wigan's prospective signing, Wendell Sailor, as the Ronaldo of rugby league. He did not need to extend the comparison yesterday; Lindsay's presence two seats down was proof that he remains the Houdini of rugby league.