Newcomers fight for four places

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Rugby Football League bosses have unveiled plans to fast-track four clubs into the semi-professional game from outside the game’s traditional heartland.

The potential newcomers to Co-operative Championship One for 2013 include Gillingham-based Medway Dragons, Hemel, Bristol, Coventry, Northampton, Chester and Oxford.

They have emerged as the seven clubs with most potential from a list of 16 expressions of interest that followed a widespread review of the professional game outside Super League.

The RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer outlined the plans at a media briefing in Brighouse, where he also confirmed a new television deal with pay-per-view broadcaster Premier Sports, who will take over coverage of the Championships from Sky from next season.

“Having harvested areas in the heartland, we need to grow the market to add value to our competition,” said Rimmer.

“We need to re-invent ourselves to some extent and change the rugby league landscape in this country. That is how big the plans are.”

The four new clubs, who will be selected and announced one at a time over the next four months, will be given support from the RFL before joining a 10-club third tier of the professional game in 2013.

Rimmer announced that next year there will be no relegation from the Championship but four clubs will be promoted from Championship One to make way for the newcomers.

Rimmer also announced plans for an Anglo-French tournament next May featuring the top four clubs from the Championship - including Halifax - and their counterparts from the French elite competition, with Toulouse guaranteed entry following their move away from the Championship.

Details of that tournament, likely to be named the Europa Cup, are expected to be confirmed in the next few weeks.

Up to 32 league games and Northern Rail Cup ties a season will be televised live by Premier Sports as part of a two-year deal which does not involve cash but includes a third-year option in favour of the RFL.