sport

RFL to review west Cumbria

The Rugby Football League (RFL) have unveiled plans for a major review of the game in west Cumbria, including the possibility of a merger of the two professional clubs.

Workington, who were inaugural members of Super League in 1996, and fellow Championship club Whitehaven will both be involved in the study, which is being spearheaded by the RFL and led by Alan Rapley, who was the 1996 GB Olympic swimming team captain and now runs his own consultancy.

A spokesman insisted there was not a pro-merger agenda but said the review would be far-ranging and considering all options.

The announcement, made at the Lillyhall Business Park in Workington by the RFL's director of standards and licensing Blake Solly, follows on from the success of Rugby League World Cup 2013 in which more than 14,000 people attended matches at Workington's Derwent Park.

Solly said: "There are some significant opportunities to grow the game in West Cumbria, as well as some challenges that need careful consideration.

Potential

"We believe this independent review will stimulate honest and constructive dialogue across the region and allow everyone involved in rugby league in west Cumbria to realise the sport's potential.

"Whitehaven and Workington Town should be congratulated on their proactive approach to this project which we hope will have far-reaching outcomes."

The bumper turn-outs for Scotland's World Cup games in Cumbria were in stark contrast to falling attendances at both clubs which have endured lean times over the past few years. The last major success for either team was Whitehaven's victory in the 2005 National League One Grand Final.

Whitehaven chief executive Barry Richardson said: "The Rugby League World Cup demonstrated to everyone that there is a far greater potential for the sport at a higher level in the region than is being realised currently.

"We would like to look at how we can capitalise on the success of the tournament and also examine how the game can be taken forward."

The report is expected to be completed by late summer.