League rift deepens as players’ union back club revolt

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Rugby League’s rift deepened yesterday when the players’ union backed the revolt led by Wigan owner Ian Lenagan, whose actions were then roundly condemned by a rival chairman as “self-centred”.

Evidence that the game is in danger of tearing itself apart over plans for a major re-structuring surfaced when Halifax chairman Michael Steele launched a stout defence of the Rugby Football League, while 1eagu3, the body representing Super League players, gave its robust support to the rebellion.

Ernie Benbow, chief executive of 1eagu3, welcomed the decision of the governing body to postpone yesterday’s extraordinary general meeting which was expected to ratify a convoluted proposal to introduce two divisions of 12 teams, dividing into three of eight after 23 rounds, from 2015.

The RFL bowed to pressure from a majority of disgruntled Super League clubs, led by Lenagan, to put off any decision on re-structuring until after the World Cup.

In a statement, 1eagu3 said: “We are delighted that sense has prevailed and the EGM to vote in the RFL’s preferred re-structuring proposal has been postponed following a revolt by a majority of the Super League clubs.

“The league structure is not the central problem. There is nothing inherently wrong with the wonderful, simple yet totally enthralling, compelling and thrilling sport of rugby league.”

Meanwhile, Steele said his club were ready to vote for the RFL’s proposals.

In a statement, Steele said: “Contrary to his (Lenegan’s) assertions, rugby league does not belong to a minority of successful Super League clubs, neither is the review over hasty or misdirected. It represents a genuine attempt to secure long-term growth of the greatest game to the benefit of all who play it, support it or watch it.

“We find it surprising that an active chairman of a leading club can have reached this point with as little understanding as Mr Lenegan claims.

“We look forward to the re-convening and successful conclusion of the EGM after the delivery of a memorable RLWC 2013.”

Warrington have announced the signing of Featherstone prop forward Anthony England.