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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Super League Crusaders' move 'can help save Wrexham'

Wrexham's Racecourse Ground
Wrexham's Racecourse Ground will be the Crusaders' new home

Crusaders Super League club will move from south to north Wales and share Wrexham FC's Racecourse ground in 2010.

Wrexham FC chief executive Paul Retout confirmed the move and says it can help secure the football club's future.

Retout said: "The deal is very important for the future of Wrexham FC. The club cannot survive if only 1,800 fans are coming through the gates.

"We needed to do something to diversify and to protect the Racecourse going forward."

The Crusaders' home since their inception in 2006 was the Brewery Field in Bridgend but the Super League new boys had planned to move to Newport's Rodney Parade ground to share with rugby union region the Newport Gwent Dragons.

But now the Crusaders have revealed they will play 11 home games at the Racecourse next year and two more "on the road" at Neath's famous old Gnoll ground, home to Welsh Premiership union club Neath.

The move comes after current backer Leighton Samuel accepted a bid by a consortium led by Wrexham FC chairman Geoff Moss to take over the franchise.

Bringing rugby league to the Racecourse will act as a much-needed income generator

Wrexham chief executive Paul Retout

Retout added: "This is a massive coup for Wrexham and for North Wales. "It should be good for Wrexham and good for the economy of north Wales.

"For example, we're expecting Leeds Rhinos to bring around 4,000 fans for the first match at the Racecourse on 29 January and make a weekend of it.

"It would be fantastic to have 10,000 fans rocking the Racecourse just like the old days.

"The deal is very important for the future of Wrexham Football Club. The club cannot survive if only 1,800 fans are coming through the gates.

"We needed to do something to diversify and to protect the Racecourse going forward. Actions speak louder than words.

"It's not all about just pumping money into the football club. We had to look at the infrastructure we have here and bringing rugby league to the Racecourse will act as a much-needed income generator."

There has been unease in some quarters that the franchise, initially intended to act as part of rugby league's expansion into south Wales, is now moving closer to the game's north of England heartland.

Retout said: "I don't really want to get involved in the debate, but the plan is to develop rugby league in Wales - whether that is in south Wales or north Wales.

"We're looking to build an interest in the sport, to get young kids involved in rugby league.


"Crusaders have already shown their intent by getting Brian Noble and Iestyn Harris involved. The blueprint is to develop rugby league in Wales - we will be the hub for that."

Wales Rugby League president Mike Nicholas helped broker the deal with Wrexham owner Moss.

"It's part of the growing process of the club, a short-term pain for the long-term gain," said Nicholas.

The Gnoll will also play host to a new Welsh rugby league club that plays in the Championship One division next season.

The Rugby Football League board approved an application to launch South Wales RLFC with the intention of filling the void in the area left by Super League side Crusaders' departure.

The Crusaders are only 12 months into a three-year Super League licence and were one of five clubs to receive warning letters in the summer that they needed to improve their ground facilities.

In August, they announced a move from Bridgend to Newport in a bid to attract more investment but with the intention of playing matches "on the road" in Wrexham.

But now the "on the road" games will be in the south.

Samuel has cut his losses and handed over the club to Moss, a Chester businessman, who has come up with the financial backing that failed to materialise in south Wales.

The Racecourse Ground had already been earmarked to host the opening game of engage Super League XV, the Crusaders' clash with defending champions Leeds.

The Welsh club, launched at the Brewery Field in 2006, endured a difficult inaugural season in Super League, winning only three matches under coach John Dixon, and could still face a £60,000 fine from the UK Border Agency over visa irregularities.

They were hoping to make a fresh start in Newport, having ditched "Celtic" in a re-branding exercise and appointing a high-profile coaching team in Noble, Jon Sharp and Wales coach Harris.

All three coaches remain committed to the club, although Harris is also likely to be involved in the proposed set-up in Neath.

The process for awarding Super League licences for 2012-15 will begin next year.

Meanwhile, Harlequins will play the new-look Crusaders in a pre-season friendly in aid of the Jon Wells testimonial, with the match taking place will be played at Rosslyn Park on 16 January.

* Catch the full story on Sport Wales on Friday from 2000 GMT on BBC TWO Wales.

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see also
Bid for new Bridgend-based team
02 Dec 09 |  Rugby League
Crusaders sign ex-Hull hooker Lee
02 Dec 09 |  Crusaders
Crusaders face 60,000 visa fine
30 Nov 09 |  Crusaders
Leeds face kick-off at Crusaders
18 Nov 09 |  Rugby League
Crusaders drop 'Celtic' from name
02 Nov 09 |  Crusaders
Noble unveiled as Crusaders coach
14 Oct 09 |  Crusaders
Crusaders to make Newport switch
21 Aug 09 |  Crusaders
Crusaders to play at Racecourse
03 Sep 09 |  Crusaders
Six Crusaders are to be deported
18 Aug 09 |  Crusaders
Crusaders given future assurance
05 Jul 09 |  Crusaders
Crusaders lodge new stadium plan
11 Dec 08 |  Crusaders
Crusaders celebrate Super League status
22 Jul 08 |  Rugby League
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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