Hemel Join Rugby League Championship 1
The Stags will line up with Northampton and two other clubs who have yet to be announced in making the step up to semi-professional level in a re-vamped Championship One from next season.
The Hertfordshire club’s elevation is part of the RFL’s strategic objective to develop the sport’s geographical footprint by giving more players the opportunity to play in the Championships.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: "We are delighted to announce that Hemel Stags have been successful in their application to join Championship One from the 2013 season.
“This is another exciting day for Rugby League as we work tirelessly to grow and develop the sport.
"As with Northampton, this means further geographic expansion for Championship One and fits with our strategy to widen the sport’s catchment area and increase the number of Rugby League players involved.
“Player supply will be key for the new teams and we’re utilising experienced Rugby League consultants to work in co-ordination with local colleges and universities as well as the Armed Forces to create a successful player pathway for each club.
“South Wales Scorpions and more recently North Wales Crusaders have demonstrated what is possible and have introduced pools of new competitive talent into the competition.
“Hemel have a long and proud history and have played at the highest level of the community game for a number of years.”
Hemel Chairman Bob Brown believes the announcement is a significant milestone in the history of the club he founded 31 years ago.
“We are delighted to be taking the step up into Championship 1,” said Brown. “From the day in April 1981 when we kicked off as a pub team in borrowed shirts we have been determined to grow the sport in Hemel Hempstead.
"Two decades of playing in non-professional national leagues have prepared us for the demands of Championship One. A long-term commitment to facilities and youth development has paid dividends and has made the Stags one of the leading sports clubs in the region.
"We had the team, but not the facilities in place in 1998 when we unsuccessfully applied to join the Northern Ford Premiership. The one-year lead time we now have to prepare will ensure that we will be ready both on and off the field in 2013.”
Hemel already have a good pedigree of producing players that have graduated to Super League, including Dan Sarginson and Kieran Dixon of the London Broncos.
Sarginson, the London Broncos stand-off who burst onto the Super League scene towards the end of last season, began his Rugby League career at Hemel as a 14-year-old and is proud of what the club have achieved.
He said: "I'm really pleased that the club where I started my career has worked so hard to better themselves as a group of players and as a club. After a lot of hard work it's great to see it's finally paid off!"
Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, welcomed the news, saying: “This is fantastic news for the club and for Hemel. It is great that they will be in Championship 1.
“We have a long and proud sporting tradition in Hemel Hempstead and it is wonderful for us to have another professional sports team which can provide a means for children and adults to play sport and whose players can act as community role models.
“I wish them well and very much look forward to seeing the guys in action.”
The RFL will announce the identity of the two remaining new clubs that will join Northampton and Hemel Stags in Championship One in 2013 over the next few months.
Founded 1981 and joined Rugby League ranks in the second division of the Southern League.
1991 – Accepted to Rugby League Alliance and rejoined in 1997
1993 – Moved to National Conference League
1999 – Made the decision to become a summer club and joined the RLC Eastern Division finishing second to Ipswich
2000 – Made Harry Jepson Trophy play offs after taking Eastern title
2002 – Appear in Harry Jepson Trophy Final - Coventry Bears 21 v 14 Hemel Hempstead Stags at Cheltenham
2003 – Become inaugural members of Rugby League Conference National
2006 – Appear in Grand Final - Bramley Buffaloes 30 v 8 Hemel Stags at Halliwell Jones Stadium, Matt Walton voted RLCN Player of the Year
2007-11 made RLCN play offs