Rugby League: Winter merger likely

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A merger between the amateur game and a section of the professional code could herald a switch back to winter for First and Second Division clubs, the Rugby Football League chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, said yesterday.

Plans for unification between the British Amateur Rugby League Association and the First and Second Division Clubs Association will be put to clubs on Friday. The smaller clubs are taking decisive action to pre-empt moves by Super League to concentrate the game at the top level on big-city franchises.

By joining forces with Barla, the First and Second Division clubs aim to strengthen the game in its heartland and that may mean abandoning summer rugby after just two years. But, rather than being divisive, Sir Rodney believes the move could have widespread benefits for the game as a whole.

"I regard it as encouraging," he said. "A good deal of progress has taken place and I'm now taking steps to ascertain the extent of support for the proposals. I will then discuss it with my fellow board members and clubs in Super League to see how together we might use the position to the benefit of the game as a whole."

Sir Rodney conceded that Super League teams may eventually be based in cities country- wide and that the smaller outfits could become feeder clubs, denied automatic promotion and relegation. "There are many other issues we need to debate, alongside whether or not we play in winter or summer," he said.