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Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 10:08 UK

Crusaders & Salford win licences

Celtic Crusaders and Salford City Reds
Crusaders and Reds will compete in Super League until at least 2011

Celtic Crusaders and Salford City Reds will play in a new-look Super League next season, but Widnes have missed out on one of the 14 licences up for grabs.

The Crusaders, based in Bridgend, and Salford join the existing 12 clubs in an expanded competition, which was unveiled by the Rugby Football League.

The licences will run until 2011, with no relegation during that period.

French club Toulouse, along with Leigh, Halifax and Featherstone from the National League, also missed out.

Of the existing Super League clubs, Castleford and Wakefield were thought to be most at threat of exclusion, but they both kept their places.

Interview: RFL Chairman Richard Lewis

"It was a difficult decision," said RFL executive chairman Richard Lewis.

"There were 19 good applications but in the end there are going to be five disappointed clubs."

The inclusion of Welsh side Crusaders means the RFL expands the geographical spread of Super League, one of its stated aims in its 2005-2008 strategy.

"The Crusaders' inclusion is a gamble," said BBC Radio 5 Live's rugby league commentator Dave Woods.

"But with the RFL desperate to expand beyond its so-called heartlands, most in the game would say it's a necessary gamble.

"Widnes and Salford were thought to be the strongest contenders for the 'other' available spot.

"With a new stadium on the way and its key geographical location close to Manchester, Salford got the nod."

Salford are currently top of National League One, with the Crusaders, who are based in Brigend, third.

"I'm a very happy man," Salford chief executive David Tarry told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Many hours of work went into that application. It means everything for the club - it was the only way we could move forward.

"All sports clubs are really empowered by what they do on the field, their success and by playing at the highest level in their sport. Super League is obviously the highest level in our sport and it's where we need to be.

"Hundreds of our fans turned up this morning and I'm really, really glad it went the right way. I wouldn't have wanted to be here otherwise!"

Crusaders chief executive Dave Thompson said: "What we've achieved over two-and-a-half years has been incredible.

"But we've only got to the starting line. We've got a lot of work to do in the next three years. The potential is huge. That's why today is so important to us."

A five-man RFL panel assessed the 19 applications based on four key criteria: stadium facilities, finance and business performance, commercial and marketing, and playing strength, including junior player production development.

The unsuccessful clubs can reapply for 2012-2014 licences and the RFL could decide to expand the Super League again.

Widnes were the most high-profile club to miss out this time around and chairman Steve O'Connor described the decision as "deeply disappointing".

Widnes 'devastated' by licence decision

"We now need to sit down and assess the full implications of this ruling over the next few days," he stated.

"However, it is important that our fans are reassured that I am fully committed to Widnes Vikings.

"I feel it is vital for the game as a whole that the Super League flourishes under this new licence system.

"I'm still convinced that Widnes Vikings have all the credentials to become a powerful force in Super League.

"We must build on the solid foundations we have laid down over the past eight months and prepare an absolutely irresistible licence application for the future."

Leigh Centurions, another club to have missed out on a Super League licence, were also far from happy with the announcement.

"May we take this opportunity to wish Salford and Celtic all the best, but also have to say we are thoroughly disgusted with the Celtic decision," said the club's chief executive Allan Rowley in a statement.

"We have nothing at all against the people who run Celtic - they can only do what they do within the laws of the game - but the decision makers should hang their heads in shame."

The disappointment of Widnes and Leigh contrasted with Castleford's delight as the Tigers clung on to their Super League place.

"The last few years have been tough ones for everyone but there are much brighter times ahead for the Tigers," insisted chief executive Richard Wright.

"The new stadium is moving ahead and this news can only add to the momentum of the project.

"Plans to strengthen the squad for 2009 are well advanced and we expect to make some announcements very soon on that front."

see also
Super League's new clubs rejoice
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Leigh rage over Super League snub
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Welsh rugby league's Crusade
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
RFL offers hope to 'snubbed' five
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
The lure of the licence system
17 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
The licence system explained
17 Jul 08 |  My Club

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