Crusaders withdraw application for Super League place

Iestyn Harris

Iestyn Harris's side have four points from 22 Super League games this term

Crusaders will not play in Super League for the next three seasons after the Welsh outfit withdrew their application for a licence.

The Rugby Football League announced the 14 clubs to take part in the 2012-14 seasons at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Wakefield Wildcats had been expected to lose their place to make way for Championship side Widnes, who were granted a new licence back in March. 

Halifax had also hoped to be granted a berth but were unsuccessful.

RFL chairman Richard Lewis, who made the announcement of the licence winners, disclosed that Crusaders only decided to withdraw from the process on Monday.

Given that Wakefield's application had looked primed to fail, why is it now good enough? Or are we left with a 14-team Super League in which only 13 clubs are Super League fit?

BBC Sport's George Riley

"The Crusaders situation had been part of the licensing process for many months," he said.

"It came as no surprise over the last week that things were coming to a head. The final decision from Crusaders came yesterday and the RFL made its decision yesterday."

The withdrawal of Crusaders follows a troubled time for the Welsh outfit, who narrowly avoid a winding-up order after being placed in administration last November.

They were subsequently deducted four points at the start of the 2011 campaign.

The Welsh franchise were awarded a place in Super League in 2008 in a bid to expand the appeal of the 13-man code beyond its traditional heartland.

But they have struggled this term, currently lying bottom of the Super League table with only four wins from 22 games and, coincidentally, face second-from-bottom Wakefield on Sunday.

Crusaders chief executive Rod Findlay said: "This has not been an easy decision but after a lengthy and exhaustive examination of the club's finances, our view is that Crusaders is not sustainable as a Super League club at this stage.

"Every other aspect of the application was strong and we now need to work to ensure that we retain those elements, particularly the community and player pathway programmes in North Wales, an area where no rugby league was played two years ago.

"A lot of people have done a lot of work to get us to where we are now but it has become clear that we cannot continue in our current guise and so a decision was taken to withdraw our licence application.

"We will now sit down with the Rugby Football League to consider our options for 2012 and beyond. In the meantime we remain committed to finishing the current season on a high and I am sure Iestyn Harris, his coaching staff and the players will do all they can to move us up the table."

Lewis added: "The RFL will now enter into discussions with Crusaders regarding their possible participation in the Co-operative Championship."

CRUSADERS SUPER LEAGUE FACTS

  • Won their franchise in the initial round of licences in 2008
  • Played their first season in 2009 based at Bridgend
  • Six players were deported in August 2009 for breaching visa regulations
  • After suffering financial troubles move north to Wrexham, based at The Racecourse Ground
  • Finish eighth in Super League XV
  • Deducted four points at the start of the 2011 season for going into administration in November 2010

Former Leeds and Great Britain centre Keith Senior, who recently signed a two-year deal with Crusaders , told BBC Radio 5 live he had no idea why the club had withdrawn their application.

He now believes his contract with the club is null and void as he was under the impression he would be playing in the top flight next season.

The RFL's five-strong independent board judged the franchise applications against five key criteria: commerce and marketing, facilities, finance, governance, playing strength and player performance.

Wakefield were many people's favourites to miss out on a licence after being placed in administration  before being taken over by new owner Andrew Glover  .

In addition, the Wildcats have endured delays to their planned new stadium.

However, their survival in the top flight was assured by the withdrawal of the Crusaders and Halifax's failure to make the grade.

Halifax chairman Michael Steele told BBC Radio Leeds he was shocked that his club had been overlooked in favour of the Wildcats.

He said: "If you compare Belle Vue with The Shay, it's no contest; if you compare playing records, it's no contest; and if you compare the financial position, we have kept our head above water and they haven't."