Rugby League: Super League presses ahead

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The Independent Online
SUPER LEAGUE clubs are insisting on a quick decision on News Corporation's offer of a renegotiated TV deal, despite lower division clubs' fears about the creation of a closed shop.

A Super League meeting yesterday issued a unanimous statement saying that the issue of the pounds 55m five-year contract to replace the remaining two years of the pounds 87m deal previously accepted by the game should be considered "entirely separately".

A special meeting of the Rugby League is due to decide on 15 July, but Super League has now given notice that it does not intend to let the issue of automatic promotion to the elite competition complicate the deal.

At the same time, Super League is to issue a document to clubs in the First and Second Divisions reassuring them that the door will be open to any who can "enhance and develop the product". A Super League spokesman, Andrew Whitelam, said: "There was no talk of breakaways and no sabre rattling".

The meeting also backed the complaint of the Super League chairman, Chris Caisley, over the Challenge Cup final being added to the Government's protected list of events that must be shown on terrestrial TV.

Meanwhile, the Rugby League has had talks with the Rugby Football Union about staging the 2000 and 2001 finals at Twickenham when Wembley will be out of commission.

The London Bronco's coach, Tony Currie, has expressed doubts over the club's prospects of enticing the Australian Test scrum-half, Allan Langer, to England next season. "If we were to sign Allan it would be a major coup for us, but I think we will be hard pressed to get him," Currie said.

London are stepping up other recruitment plans, with their chief executive, Tony Rea, checking the form of several northern-based players last weekend.

"There are players in the First Division and on the fringes of Super League sides who we think we could give an opportunity," Currie said.

The Rugby League has agreed a sponsorship for the match between England and Wales at Widnes on 19 January. Thomson ESG will also sponsor the England team.

The Australian Test full-back Robbie O'Davis and his Newcastle Knights team-mate Wayne Richards received maximum 22-match bans from the Australian Rugby League yesterday after returning positive drug tests.