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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
French join Super League
Super League clubs have voted to admit French team UTC from 2006.

UTC, who will be known as Perpignan, will be protected from relegation in their first two seasons.

UTC coach Steve Deakin said the decision was the most significant for rugby league since the breakaway from rugby union in 1895.

"It's sensational news, but the real winner is the game itself because it's the best thing that's happened to rugby league since 1895."

Englishman Deakin, who used to coach Keighley and joined UTC at the start of the season, added: "It's sensational for the game in France because some of the outstanding talent in France, who this year have received great offers to go to rugby union are going to want to stay here now.

"I'm really pleased for our president, Bernard Guasch, who has personally bankrolled this club for two years and pushed forward for Super League acceptance.

"We're alive and healthy, we've got record attendances and record sponsorship and we're expanding. Everyone is a winner."

Rugby Football League chairman Richard Lewis agreed with Deakin's sentiments.

"It's terrific news for Super League and UTC and great news for French rugby league and the international game."

The 12 league clubs will decide at a later date how to accomodate Perpignan after rejecting proposals to increase the number of teams. In a separate vote, they decided unanimously to retain the current 1.8m salary cap.

A proposal to cut the wage ceiling by 300,000 to 1.5m was thrown out.

The clubs agreed to stick with the limit for the next four years, although the amount will be linked to the retail price index (a measure of UK inflation which is used to determine how pensions and salaries rise).

Both Wigan and Bradford had threatened to take legal action to prevent the cap being reduced.

"It was agreed unanimously that the best way forward is to basically keep unchanged the amount of money that the salary cap allows," said Lewis.

"After all the discussion and debate that has gone on, to have unanimous support for the way the salary cap will be calculated for the next three or four years is again terrific news."

UTC was formed five years from a merger between long-established clubs St Esteve and XIII Catalan.

Under Deakin they have developed into the best side in France, winning the French Cup final by beating Carcassonne.

UTC expect to play their matches at the council-owned stadium currently used by Perpignan's rugby union team in addition to their historic Gilbert Brutus Stadium.

But they may also take matches on the road to other areas in a bid to grow French interest in the 13-man game.




SEE ALSO
Widnes call for growth
18 May 04  |  Super League
Lindsay backs UTC bid
21 Apr 04  |  Super League
UTC face tough battle
08 Apr 04  |  Super League
French club delay switch
14 Nov 03  |  Super League


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