Hetherington feels expansion came too soon

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Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington last night lent his support to arch-rivals Bradford Bulls but conceded their plight suggests a 14-club Super League may have been too ambitious.

As a third top-flight club in 18 months to suffer administration, Bradford’s financial woe has inevitably prompted concerns about the competition’s viability.

Last night, there was still no firm bids for its purchase with the clock ticking ahead of liquidation.

But Hetherington told the Yorkshire Post: “There’s no question Super League is sustainable.

“Clubs just need good management and business plans. Bradford Bulls find themselves in this predicament now presumably because of the decisions they have made over a number of years, not just recently.

“You can look no further than the management. It will be interesting to see the investigation of those business decisions and see why the business has been allowed to decline like it has.

“Bradford Bulls has been an integral part of rugby league, though, and their needs to be a way of making sure they survive.

“Clearly, it’s a desperate situation the club finds itself in and I can only hope it can find some way out of it.

“As clubs we’re all reliant on each other and we certainly want Bradford in Super League.”

However, Hetherington did reveal he felt the initial decision to increase Super League clubs was wrong.

“When clubs voted (in 2008) on moving up to 14 from 12 there was only one that voted against it,” he said.

“That was Leeds. I’m very much in favour of expansion and thought 14 was the right move.

“But we needed 14 strong, viable clubs for that to happen and back then I thought it was premature to move up from 12.

“It’s easy in hindsight but, with what happened with the Welsh (Crusaders) franchise, I think we can now say we did move quicker than we could and should.”

Meanwhile, former Bradford and Great Britain star Lee Gilmour will leave Huddersfield Giants at the end of the season to join Castleford Tigers.

The second-row, 34, has signed a two-year deal.

Castleford coach Ian Millward said: “I recruited Lee when I was at St Helens; he has a unique CV of World Club, Super League and Challenge Cup success and international experience too.”