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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Lewis picks up league baton
Richard Lewis holds a rugby ball after being appointed the executive chairman of the RFL
Lewis is looking forward to running rugby league
By BBC Sport Online's James Standley

As a 47-year-old former Davis Cup tennis player from Surrey, Richard Lewis is far from the archetypal image of a rugby league man.

But the Rugby Football League's (RFL) new executive chairman is an experienced sports administrator.

After finishing his playing career, which saw him ranked as high as 68 in the world, he joined the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in 1987 and rose to be the LTA's director of tennis.

He left that job in July 2000 following Great Britain's humiliating Davis Cup defeat by Ecuador.

I think my appointment actually shows the sport is coming together
New RFL boss
Richard Lewis
The South American tennis underdogs knocked out Britain on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon, and it was Lewis who carried the can after a welter of criticism.

He was held responsible for the lack of young talent coming through in the British game, despite the tens of millions of pounds raised by Wimbledon every year.

Lewis argued that the structure of the game was stifling the development of young talent, but his critics argued that, after 13 years as a senior figure in the LTA, change was long overdue.

His experience at the LTA should stand him in good stead, as rugby league has struggled to present a united front over the past few years.

Lewis will take over the RFL with the body 1.8m in debt and in urgent need of a structure that binds the different elements of the game together.

Financial problems

And, although tennis is seen by many to be at the opposite end of the social spectrum from rugby league, he believes that there are lots of parallels between the two sports.

"I understand the image of tennis is that it is a very wealthy sport, but that's only at the very, very, highest level," he said.

"Tennis clubs within Britain don't have a healthy financial position so I'm used to dealing with difficult financial positions, and I think my background in that sense will be very relevant."

Lewis is well aware of the in-fighting that has affected rugby league in recent times, but he sees his new role as a good opportunity to unite the warring factions.

New unity

"I think my appointment actually shows the sport is coming together," he said.

"I will be chairing the Super League, the Northern Ford Premiership as well as the RFL and that gives us a great chance to all work together for the common good of the sport."

Lewis may appear to be an unlikely choice to head up rugby league's revolution.

But after his years struggling to try and produce a British tennis champion, turning round British rugby league cannot seem too daunting a prospect.

RFL executive chairman Richard Lewis
"My main job is to create good working relationships"
See also:

28 Mar 02 |  Rugby League
RFL unveil new chief
26 Mar 02 |  Super League
Lowes launches RFL attack
25 Mar 02 |  Rugby League
Outsider set for executive role
19 Mar 02 |  Rugby League
RFL happy to host Cup
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