LONDON SKOLARS have pulled out of League One – meaning there could be just nine clubs competing in the division next season.
It’s a major blow for both the 13-a-aide code in the capital, identified as a key area by IMG in their bid to transform the sport, and the Rugby Football League, who over the last six years, have also lost Gloucestershire All Golds, Oxford, Hemel Stags and West Wales Raiders from the third tier.
The governing body say they are considering options over the 2024 League One fixture schedule.
This season’s was disrupted by the late withdrawal of West Wales, who announced their decision last December, after the original list had been published.
Clubs were left with only 18 league matches and a number of blank weekends, causing cash-flow issues for some.
Skolars, who are to apply to join the Southern Conference League with a view to regrouping ahead of a potential bid to return to League One at some point, lost all of the 17 league games they played.
They failed to fulfil a late-season rearranged midweek fixture at Rochdale Hornets, who were awarded a 48-0 win.
The side based at Wood Green in North London also fell at their first hurdle in the Challenge Cup.
For the 2023 season, Skolars’ average attendance over their nine league games at the New River Stadium was just 271, a fall of 29 from 2022 and 168 down on 2019 (2020 and 2021 having been affected by the pandemic).
A proposed takeover by Australian sports management company ARC fell through earlier this year, which the club say was central to the latest development.
Leaving League One ends a 21-year involvement in the semi-professional ranks for Skolars, who were founded in 1995 and made their mark in the amateur ranks before moving up.
The club said in a statement: “The board of directors have unanimously decided to withdraw from League One with immediate effect.
“This regrettable decision was taken after the close of the current season and will allow the board to seek investment, consolidate and rebuild, with a view to a possible return to League One in the future.
“The club will apply to compete in the Southern Conference League and plan to remain at their New River Stadium base.
“This potential move to amateur status had been considered prior to the 2023 season, however the proposed acquisition of the club by ARC gave us confidence that we could compete at a level that would see us challenging for a play-off spot.
“This potential acquisition unfortunately failed to materialise, which was highly disappointing as significant investment in resources and funding had been indicated, which if it had been injected into the club in the proposed timeline, would have ensured that we were geared up and ready for this season.
“As it was, we were left short of playing resources, which ultimately led to the worst playing season in the club’s 28-year history.
“It’s been a challenging season and the time and money spent on working towards the sale was a massive distraction.
“We still feel that there is potential to grow with the right investment and we are now exploring a number of options to secure the long-term future of the club as one that continues to maintain its strong community roots.
“The board would like to take this opportunity to thank its many current and former staff, players, coaches, volunteers and sponsors, who have made it possible for us to remain competitive over the years.
“Finally, the board would like to give a massive shout out to our loyal fans whose support has been unwavering over the years.
“This is not the end of Skolars, just another chapter in the evolving story of Rugby League in London.”
The RFL said: “While it is disappointing to lose London Skolars from League One, their intention to play in the Southern Conference League is welcome as it would add to the strength of that competition, and ensure Skolars continue to offer a playing and development opportunity in the Haringey and wider North London area.
“Discussions have already begun with other League One clubs about the impact on the 2024 fixture list, with a range of options to be considered.”