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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Interest growing in Conference
BBC Sport's Dave Woods

Rugby league's Summer Conference could be set to explode next year, with up to 20 clubs already expressing an interest in joining the leagues.

Teams from places like Bath and Cheltenham have made enquiries about playing in the conference next summer alongside such clubs as the Oxford Cavaliers, West London Sharks and Hemel Stags.


Our development is going very, very well at the moment
RFL Development Director Gary Tasker

The level of interest is further proof of rugby league's growing national appeal.

And the RFL say they are well on course for their target of having a rugby league team in every centre of population of at least 100,000 within the next four years.

RFL Development Director Gary Tasker says: "It is very encouraging what is happening up to now and we are giving people until November to get their applications in.

"The Summer Conference has proved to be very successful in the few years it has been up and running and hopefully it will continue to go from strength to strength."

The Conference, which is split into several regional leagues, is due for a shake up next year, with 10 or 12 clubs being invited to apply to form a National Summer Conference.

The new conference will be only one level below the Super League and the new Premiership One and Two leagues.

Widnes Vikings' Phil Cantillon celebrates promotion to the Super League
Every team wants to play in the Super League

The remaining 20 or so Conference clubs along with the new admissions will again be split into regional divisions.

"We were finding some of the stronger clubs were going out winning by 60 or 80 points each week, so we decided to form an elite league." said Tasker.

But there will be plenty more clubs coming in, replacing the ones that effectively get promoted.

"We have a strong number of applications from the South West and interestingly the North West, places like Bolton, Burnley and Blackburn, close to the heartland but towns where rugby league isn't traditionally played.

"Our development is going very, very well at the moment. We have a great story to tell."

See also:

16 Sep 02 | Rugby League
08 Aug 01 | Rugby League
28 Jan 02 | Challenge Cup
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