WATCH: Arsenal legend Tony Adams gets on board as Rugby Football League president to make positive difference

BY THE end of his official first day as the new Rugby Football League president, former England football captain Tony Adams had somehow talked himself into a maiden match between the two sports – and put himself forward to play again at the age of 52.

Stepping in: Tony Adams, at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium, has taken on the role of president of the RFL. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

An intriguing prospect, certainly, if not exactly why he accepted the role when succeeding Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, at the RFL’s annual general meeting in Doncaster yesterday.

There are far more important reasons for that, principally to help “cement” the relationship between his charity Sporting Chance – which has helped more than 400 rugby league players address mental health and addiction issues since 2011 – and the governing body.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Moreover, the legendary former Arsenal centre-half is clearly a fan of rugby league, even if the partnership initially seems strange, and he revealed it has gripped him more than plenty of “boring” football matches of late.

Stepping in: Tony Adams, at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium, has taken on the role of president of the RFL. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

Adams was first asked to talk to players in 2011 by Warrington Wolves’ Tony Smith – now coach at Hull KR – and he recollected: “He told me the ball is in play for more than any other sport.

“When I started playing football back in the day it was a very physical game and maybe at the top level football has changed a little bit; it’s got a bit more technical.

“Certainly in the lower league the tackle is still available but there’s plenty of tackles out there in rugby league. I kind of like that part of it.

“I’m generalising but the (rugby league) guys have been very humble.

OVER TO YOU: Andy Burnham hands the presidential chains of the RFL over to Tony Adams. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

“It’s been great for my charity to have these big, humble guys break down in tears in a room with other 23-year-old gambling addicts – footballers.

“It’s really made a good combination and helped everyone concerned.

“We’re all different and we all have an illness, certainly the guys who are in treatment.

“I’m floating around the idea of getting some footballers up to play against them: 13 footballers against 13 rugby league players.!

LEADING ROLE: Tony Adams talks in Doncaster after receiving the RFL Presidential chains. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

“We’d have to play football first as I don’t think we’ll survive if we play rugby league first half.

“I’ve only got Stuart Pearce so far, so I’m open to offers!”

Of course, former England team-mate Pearce, 57, is also a high-profile fan of rugby league and is regularly spotted at Warrington – and now Hull KR -–games given his friendship with Smith.

Adams was introduced to the media in his first press conference as president alongside Doncaster’s Carl Hall, the RFL’s new vice-president, plus outgoing RFL chairman Brian Barwick and newly-installed interim chairman Simon Johnson.

Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (centre) is tackled by Arsenal captain Tony Adams during the 2002 FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. Picture: PA/David Davies

He was quick to point out that he will not be attempting to do what England rugby union World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward did; an ill-fated cross-sport switch to become Southampton performance director in 2005 and, later, their short-lived director of football.

“The people is what I’m about,” said Adams, as he started his 12 month stint in the ceremonial role.

“I don’t want to get involved in the technical side of the game. I’m not sitting here as Woodward did when he went to Southampton.

“I don’t claim to be an expert of this sport. It’s not what I’m about.

“I’m here for profile. If I can help shed some light on this great sport then I’m here to do it.

“I’ll use Stuart (Pearce) as well – he loves it to bits – in my team to spread the word that it’s a fantastic sport.

“Since I’ve been watching it in recent years I do love their honest, open approach and the physical side of the game.

“It’s a non-stop sport. I do love it. I don’t sit there bored. And some of the football games I’ve been to recently I’ve been bored out of my brains! Side passing. Pass it. Pass it. Pass it. Pass it.

“I don’t want to say I hate football now, I love rugby league and I’m a technical director as that’s not what I’m about.

“I’m in this position to cement the relationship as player welfare is my main concern.

“We have 14 stake-holders (at Sporting Chance) and the RFL are by far the best.

“They really care for their players and I’m here to cement the relationship between the RFL and Sporting Chance.”

Adams praised the work of the RFL in tackling mental health and addiction issues and admitted he “jumped” at the opportunity to get more involved.

“There will be different functions throughout the year such as the World Cup draw and the 21,000 women we’re trying to get playing by 2021, while the chief executive is massively into resilience and mental health welfare,” he added.

“So there will be campaigns throughout the year and all things where I can add to the profile and at the same time look after the integrity and the dignity of the organisations.

“And all ending in the Football Versus Rugby Cup.

“I’m warming to the idea actually!”