Crusaders call time on Super League
Welsh club Crusaders RL have dramatically withdrawn from Engage Super League from next year.
The Wrexham-based outfit had widely been expected to be awarded one of the 13 remaining licences to compete in the elite competition for the 2012-14 period this morning.
The surprise decision to pull out means a reprieve for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, who had widely been expected to miss out on a place in the 14-team division.
Championship side Halifax failed in their application for a licence, meaning the other 12 current Super League clubs will join Wakefield and Widnes in Super League next year.
The Rugby Football League only made their decision as to the make-up of Super League yesterday.
Chairman Richard Lewis admitted he was not shocked by Crusaders' decision, which will end a tumultuous three-year stay in Super League.
Lewis said: "There was bound to be a lot of speculation beforehand and it was important we kept the process confidential. It was a secret for virtually every club up until we made the announcement.
"The Crusaders situation had been part of the licensing process for many months.
"It came as no surprise over the last week that things were coming to a head.
"The final decision from Crusaders came yesterday and the RFL made its decision yesterday."
Crusaders, originally based in Bridgend, were admitted to Super League in 2009 after making rapid progress in the Championship competitions.
Yet after just one season they were forced to move to north Wales due to financial problems.
Uncertainty over their future continued and they were later deducted four points for the current season after falling into administration.
There had also been further controversy when it emerged several overseas players had been playing for them before their elevation to Super League without the required visas.
Despite that, the RFL's commitment to expansion was thought likely to earn them a prolonged stay in Super League ahead of Wakefield, who were also in administration and have failed to meet minimum stadium criteria.
Crusaders had even started recruiting for 2012, signing former Great Britain centre Keith Senior from Leeds Rhinos and tying Wales rugby union legend Gareth Thomas to a new contract.
Crusaders chief executive Rod Findlay said: “This has not been an easy decision but after a lengthy and exhaustive examination of the club’s finances, our view is that Crusaders is not sustainable as a Super League club at this stage.
"Every other aspect of the application was strong and we now need to work to ensure that we retain those elements, particularly the community and player pathway programmes in north Wales, an area where no rugby league was played two years ago.
“A lot of people have done a lot of work to get us to where we are now but it has become clear that we cannot continue in our current guise and so a decision was taken to withdraw our licence application.
“It would not have been fair to the players, the supporters, the other clubs or the engage Super League competition for us to proceed with our application.
"I would like to congratulate those clubs who were successful in their applications.
“In many ways the licensing process helped us realise that the club was not viable in Super League at this stage and I would like to place on record the club’s thanks to the Rugby Football League for the practical support they have given us in the last few years.
"I would also like to thank the club owners for their support over the last two seasons."
The RFL now hope Crusaders will be able to continue as a club in the Championship next season.
Lewis added: "They need to take stock of their situation but I think there is a reasonable chance they will play in the Championship.
"It would be good if they did. It would be great for Wrexham and north Wales.
"The people there have responded well to rugby league being played in north Wales and I am sure they will give it a long, hard look."
For clubs such as Wakefield there were stern words that the RFL could revoke licences if promises are not kept.
Wakefield were one of four clubs awarded C grade licences along with Castleford Tigers, Harlequins RL and Salford City Reds.
Lewis said: "The revocation of licences is very much about keeping pressure on the clubs.
"The clubs will have promises in their licence applications they will need to fulfil.
"There is an opportunity for licences to be lost if clubs are reneging on their promises."