Rugby League: Murdoch `could pull the plug'

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The Independent Online
Rugby League


The has admitted for the first time that Rupert Murdoch could scrap his contract with them if he fails to get the go-ahead for Super League in Australia.

That confirmation of fears surrounding the future of the game came in court in Sydney, where a lawyer representing the British League said that the plug could be pulled on Super League in Europe.

Alec Shand QC said that part of the agreement with Murdoch's News Corporation revolved around World Club Challenge matches between the top four Super League teams in Europe and Australia at the end of the season.

Shand, tabling an affidavit from European Super League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, said that, if Super League was unable to get off the ground in Australia, those matches could not be played, thus giving News Corporation grounds to scrap their contract.

That is a stunning admission that events in Australia pose a direct threat to the game here, something Lindsay has consistently denied. League sources yesterday tried to explain the admission away as courtroom histrionics.

Shand said that, without Murdoch's pounds 87m, the state of the game in Britain was "parlous" and that half the country's clubs could face extinction.

Lindsay has condemned the Australian 's efforts to have Super League banned worldwide - although it is not clear what jurisdiction an Australian court could have over the start of the competition here, which is due three weeks today.

The ARL's chairman, Ken Arthurson, had earlier dismissed proposals submitted by the British League to run Super League in Australia.

The League, he said, "could not promote blanket sales in Alaska".

"Just look at their record. In 100 years, the English has succeeded in expanding the game no further than its origins in Yorkshire and Lancashire."

Judge Burchett's rulings on submissions by both sides are expected today.