Crusaders close in on Championship chance
Crusaders RL have confirmed their intention to play in the Co-operative Championship following their decision to pull out of Engage Super League at the end of the season.
The Wrexham club were last month forced to drop their application for a new three-year Super League licence at the 11th hour when the owners withdrew their support, but today they announced plans to re-form in time to play in the Championship from 2012.
Crusaders chief executive Rod Findlay, who is co-ordinating the rescue bid, said discussions have started over the purchase of the existing club, with fans set to have representation on the new board.
They have also secured the support of Wrexham Council and have an outline agreement with Glyndwr University to continue to play at the Racecourse Ground.
“We have announced our intention to apply for a spot in the Championship for 2012,” said Findlay, a former in-house lawyer at the Rugby Football League who also oversaw the relaunch of Gateshead Thunder in 2009.
“There have been over 4,000 expressions of support in a short space of time and that, along with backing from the business community, has given us the confidence to press ahead.
“The next step is to prepare a business plan to send to the RFL for approval and then we will need to sit down and think about recruiting coaches and players.”
Iestyn Harris, who took over as head coach from Brian Noble just over a year ago, is unlikely to remain involved as he is expected to join Wigan as assistant to new boss Shaun Wane once he is confirmed as the successor to Michael Maguire, but assistant coach Barry Eaton could be available.
With most of the Crusaders players having secured moves to Super League rivals, the new club will have to virtually start from scratch but Findlay is confident enough players will become available.
Chris Jones, chairman of the Crusaders Supporters Club, said: “This is just the news we were hoping for.
“The fans were devastated when the club announced the withdrawal from the Super League and you could see how much the game meant to them by the scenes at the final whistle last weekend at the last home game.
“The fact that we have a chance to rise from the ashes and see the Crusaders take to the pitch once again in North Wales is a fantastic opportunity and I hope we’re allowed to grasp it with both hands.
“Naturally the Crusaders Supporters Club wants the Crusaders to go forward. Not just for the first team in the Championship, but also to protect all of the community work done across North Wales and the North Wales Crusaders under 18s, who were formed earlier this year.
“There has been a lot of hard work put into developing the Crusaders in 2011 and the goodwill of the supporters was there for everyone to see on Sunday.”
Findlay said the club hoped to have everything in place within the next two weeks so that the RFL can finalise the make-up of the Championship.
Crusaders will in effect be a straight replacement for Widnes Vikings, who are being promoted to Super League, but the departure of Toulouse will mean some re-shuffling.
RFL communications manager John Ledger confirmed that the Crusaders could take their place in the Championship next season.
A statement said: “The RFL have been working with Crusaders since the licence announcement with a view to them continuing in the Championship next season and talks are ongoing.
“It is clear that there is a considerable amount of interest in Wrexham in building on the progress made over the last two years and it is heartening to see so many people passionate about rugby league and the Crusaders.”