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Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 18:36 UK

Leigh rage over Super League snub

Richard Lewis
Lewis says the pressure is now on the 14 Super League clubs from 2009

Leigh Centurions have launched a stinging attack on the Rugby Football League's decision to award a Super League place to the Celtic Crusaders.

Centurions insist they have no issue with the Welsh club, but that the RFL's decision to award them a licence is "purely a geographical one".

"The decision makers should hang their heads in shame," said chief executive Allan Rowley.

RFL chief Richard Lewis insists the 14 clubs awarded licences "must deliver".

He has given hope to Leigh and the other four clubs that failed to win one of 14 Super League licences - Widnes, Featherstone, Halifax, and French club Toulouse - by insisting they will be in close contention when the RFL reconsiders licenses for 2012 and beyond.

"It's absolutely not a closed shop - the pressure's on those 14 more than ever.

"Clubs given licences must deliver, in the knowledge those clubs that missed out are waiting in the wings."

Market research suggests that we have a lot of support for rugby league and the Super League in Wales. It's a calculated risk to go with Crusaders

Richard Lewis
RFL chief executive
Lewis says the selection process will have taught the likes of Widnes and Toulouse what it takes for them to build a successful club - that is ready for the Super League - in the future.

"There was a real danger, without question, that those clubs already in the Super League would miss out," he said. "They were pushed very, very hard to answer some searching questions on their plans and on what they can deliver in the next three years.

"But the point is that National League clubs now know what they have to do. Forcing every club to plan, to put those plans in black and white and make commitments, has been a healthy process and ensures those in the Super League cannot afford to relax."

Salford City Reds and the Crusaders will join the current 12 top-flight teams next season.

But Leigh chief executive Rowley is adamant that the Crusaders do not merit a place in the newly-expanded Super League after being "devastated" to be denied a place themselves.

"We now have a team that fielded 10 overseas players against us, because they are classed as a development team, and are now in our elite competition which is a complete contradiction of terms and we feel this decision is purely a geographical one," he said.

"We know that there is no system for appealing but we are definitely going to ask the RFL how Celtic ticked more boxes than us we owe that to the public of Leigh."

Yet Lewis thinks that the introduction of the Crusaders - the first Welsh side to earn a berth in Super League - will help make the adoption of a licensed 14-team Super League "a huge success".

"It is ground-breaking. We are making history and I'm confident we will look back and say this was a giant leap forward for the sport in years to come," he said.

"With the Celtic Crusaders, we are building on the strength of rugby league in Wales, which has been a great success story for us over the last few years.

"Market research suggests that we have a lot of support for rugby league and the Super League in Wales.

"It's a calculated risk to go with Crusaders. They put together a good application and convinced us they can make a real success of being a Super League club.

"Look at the Catalans Dragons - they have been a massive success story. They've gone from bottom of the table in their first year - when they would've been relegated had it not been for licensing back then - and now they're third in the table, have sell out crowds every week and are a top side.

"With that in mind, Celtic Crusaders might, too, surprise everybody. We're confident about them even though it's a big step up.

"However they, just like the other 13 clubs, now have to deliver.

"The clubs who missed out will already be thinking about their next licensing agreements and, with National League clubs guaranteed a chance of applying in 2011, the 14 Super League clubs know they are under pressure."

see also
Crusaders & Salford win licences
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Super League's new clubs rejoice
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
National Leagues set for shake-up
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
Nineteen target Super League spot
02 Apr 08 |  Rugby League

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