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Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Thursday, 31 March 2011 11:38 UK

Widnes Vikings regain Super League place


Widnes deserve Super League spot - RFL chief

Widnes will play in Super League from 2012 after losing their place in 2005.

The Vikings were granted a three-year licence ahead of Halifax at Thursday's Rugby Football League announcement at their Red Hall headquarters in Leeds.

But Halifax met the RFL's criteria and can carry on with their application in the hope of also being admitted to Super League for 2012.

The third of the Super League contenders Barrow's bid was rejected as they did not meet the standard.

"Today is the culmination of a lot of work over the last three years but the job is not done, it only starts now," said owner Steve O'Connor, who has ambitious plans to make the club a force once again.

Widnes were the big losers when the licensing system was introduced three years ago, when Salford and Celtic Crusaders were admitted to an expanded 14-team league.

But they have since made rapid strides under O'Connor, a local businessman whose original passion was football, since he brought them out of administration in the autumn of 2007.

He had been at the club only nine months when Widnes were rejected in 2008. But he has since poured around £2.3m of his own money into the club.

Widnes, whose previous stay in Super League was between 2002 and 2005, were rejected as much for their lack of youth development as for their off-field failures three years ago.

And O'Connor says that the club have since been active in putting down roots.

"We had a meeting at Red Hall after we failed last time," said O'Connor. "And the RFL made it very clear that the area we had to work on was youth development.

"The youngsters that are just starting to come through now are the result of a process we started a few years ago."

O'Connor also has a wealth of experience to draw on from Paul Cullen, their director of rugby, former Wigan and Great Britain star Denis Betts, the head coach and his former club and international team-mates Mick Cassidy and Terry O'Connor.

"Widnes have made significant strides in the last three years," said RFL chairman Richard Lewis and their success today is testimony to a lot of hard work by their chairman Steve O'Connor, his fellow directors and all the staff at the Stobart Stadium.

"On behalf of the RFL Board of Directors I would like to congratulate Widnes on their successful application and wish them all the best as they prepare to take the next step in their exciting journey."


Thursday was also the deadline for existing Super League clubs under threat of losing their licences to submit new bids for 2012. And it remains a possibility that not just one but two current Super League clubs could yet be jettisoned to make way for a second Championship club.

Wakefield and Crusaders will both have trodden nervously after their financial faltering in recent months.

The two struggling clubs both went into administration over the winter and started the season on -4 points.

With doubts over the suitability of their current ground at Belle Vue and a delay over their plans to build a new stadium, Wakefield are thought to have based their application on an initial ground-share with football neighbours Barnsley at Oakwell.

But, although his club are widely thought to be the club most at risk of losing their Super League place, Wakefeld chairman Andrew Glover sounded a defiant message as he submitted his club's bid.

"It's taken all the team here virtually four solid weeks to compile," said Glover, who brought the club out of administration just six weeks ago.

We have done everything the Rugby League asked of us since our last application

Halifax director Mike Riley

"The full document is over 700 pages, outlining our plans for the future of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in Super League."

The decision on that will not be made until 26 July but it offers hope to Halifax, members of Super League from its foundation in 1996 to 2003, who are making their second application in three years.

"We have done everything the Rugby League asked of us since our last application, like the youth team and the stadium," said Halifax director Mike Riley. "And we've been in back-to-back Grand Finals."

Barrow's application was based on the importance of a Super League presence in Cumbria.

But the Raiders fell well short in meeting the minimum criteria set by the RFL.

Their Craven Park home does not have an operational capacity of 10,000, they did not report a turnover of at least £1m in financial year ending 2009 or 2010 or record an average attendance of at least 2,500.

And that means the region will remain unrepresented at English rugby league's highest level since Workington were relegated at the end of the inaugural season in 1996.

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see also
Trio meet Super League deadline
03 Dec 10 |  Rugby League
Super League club to lose licence
04 Aug 10 |  Rugby League
Widnes eye Super League licence
20 Jul 09 |  Rugby League
Crusaders & Salford win licences
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
Super League Show
17 Feb 08 |  Rugby League

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