Richard Lewis: Time to go or a big loss to rugby league?

WILL rugby league miss Richard Lewis?

The former Davis Cup tennis player quit his job as chairman of the Rugby Football League on Wednesday, opting for a return to his first love as chief executive of the All England Club.

The RFL issued a suitably glowing eulogy about his decade at the helm of the 13-man game; crowd figures up, TV income up, success after success, blah, blah, blah.

So far, so predictable.

From a distance though, Lewis always seemed like a fish out of water as far as rugby league was concerned.

People who know these things tell me he is a talented sports administrator.

And the part-time job he took a few years ago as the head of Sport England, coupled with the ease with which he has slipped into another high-profile role, suggests that reputation might have a foundation in fact.

But those monotone oratories at Super League launches, licensing announcements and international events never seemed to suggest that he had the measure of the passion of the rugby league public or understood the game’s heritage.

Then again, perhaps Lewis was just a convenient, soft target for anyone discontented with the direction the sport has taken under his stewardship.

Perhaps only now that he has gone will we discover how much of an influence he actually had inside the corridors of Red Hall, and how many of the controversial choices made in the last few years were actually inspired by him.

The backdrop to his exit is also fascinating, with two of the game’s highest-profile club chairmen - Hull KR’s Neil Hudgell and St Helens’ Eamonn McManus - breaking ranks in the last fortnight to express their doubts about the state of the game.

For the first time in a long time, it appears the only people with the power to effect substantive change are getting restless.

Were Lewis’ exit and this sudden out-pouring of angst connected? I have no idea.

But if there is any link at all, I would be surprised if he was the last Red Hall grandee to leave his job in the coming weeks and months.

SKINT Super League outfit Bradford may have passed their initial £500,000 fundraising target.

So that only leaves another half a million to find before the - lest we forget - Grade B licence holders can sleep easy in their top flight beds.

The Odsal club are apparently ‘in discussions’ about how to raise that cash, but I would be very surprised if one way wasn’t through the sale of teenage boy wonder John Bateman.

The back rower is one of the hottest talents in the British game and, even in an era when transfer fees are something of a novelty, is worth well over six-figures.

Expect to see him in a primrose and blue shirt in the not too distant future.