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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Shake-up looms for league
Sir Rodney Walker
Sir Rodney set up the strategic review
The Rugby Football League plans to set up a new five-division structure in England and an expanded international programme as part of a radical overhaul of the game.

We were in danger of sleepwalking into oblivion
Sir Rodney Walker

The in-depth strategic review will be discussed by clubs before being put to the RFL Council on 3 October.

A total of 113 proposals have been put forward. Among them are:

  • a common playing season, stretching from February to October, with the exception of amateur clubs governed by Barla;
  • a four-division pyramid structure under Super League;
  • a five-year programme of international and representative fixtures.

    League chairman Sir Rodney Walker set up the strategic review following the recent attacks from rugby union and the fall-out from last year's World Cup, which proved a financial flop.

    "We were in danger of sleepwalking into oblivion," said Sir Rodney.

    "It became clear to me in the aftermath of the World Cup that things were fundamentally wrong with our game."

    Russia can expect more international action
    Russia can expect more international action

    Many of the details of the review have yet to be finalised but clubs have already given their approval to a slimmed-down Super League of 10 teams in 2003.

    Under the proposals, the Northern Ford Premiership will be divided into National Leagues One and Two.

    National League Three will comprise Barla clubs wishing to play in the summer while the leading outfits from the pioneering RFL Conference will form National League Four.

    An expanded World Club Championship, featuring the top three teams from both Super League and Australia's National Rugby League, is proposed from October 2002.

    There are also plans for an annual Tri-Nations Series in July, with Great Britain due to play in Sydney next summer.

    Asecond-tier, pre-season international tournament involving Russia is scheduled for 2003 onwards.

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