Names in the frame for League One vacancy

PROFESSIONAL Rugby League could be heading to Norfolk after Anglian Vipers were unveiled as one of three formal applicants to join League One.
Bedford Tigers and Goole Vikings are also bidding to play in what will be an eleven-team section next season, taking the total number of clubs to 36 across the three divisions, with a decision on the new side due by the end of September.
The Vipers are based in Wymondham, twelve miles south-west of Norwich, and entered the East of England League last season.
That competition also includes Bedford’s second team, with the firsts playing in the Southern Conference League.
Based in the town 46 miles north-west of London, the Tigers were formed in 2004 after a previous club Bedford Swifts folded.
Goole, from the town 30 miles west of Hull, play in the Yorkshire Men’s League and were formed in 2018.
The town had a short-lived senior Rugby League club at the turn of the 20th Century.
The Vikings play at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds, a stadium with a capacity of 3,000, which is currently undergoing redevelopment.
While Bedford Tigers are currently based at Bedford Athletic, it’s believed a groundshare with higher-level rugby union club Bedford Blues, whose Goldington Road stadium holds 5,000, is being explored.
Anglian Vipers play at Wymondham Rugby Union Club, a ground recently praised by Rugby Football Union president Rob Briers following his visit.
Vipers Chairman Rob Humphries said: “We have a one-in-three shot of playing in League One next season – it’s so exciting.
“I think there is enough rugby talent in the region to support a team playing at national level.
“Not only are they able to play semi-professional Rugby League locally, but it also puts them in the shop window for Super League and playing for England, and when you put on a pair of boots, that’s what you want. It is a massive leap to being able to offer that.”
Bedford spokesman Rob Ashton said: “We have always been an ambitious club.
“We’ve been told that geography won’t play a part, only that the club with the best IMG grading score will win the space.
“There are lots of challenges, but we have built a strong-enough club and a strong-enough brand to enter a professional team and we can bring some value to the sport at that level.
Goole Vikings president Anthony Whiteley said: “We’ve always believed Goole is a bit of an untapped area in the M62 heartland, and would bridge the gap between Castleford and Hull.
“There have been plenty of attempts at expansion in places like London and South Wales, but they haven’t been sustainable because the interest isn’t there.
“I see the interest in Rugby League in Goole every day. We want to provide a pathway for local kids, while giving the town of Goole a professional sports club.”
While eleven clubs made initial inquiries to the Rugby Football League, only the trio concerned met the June 28 deadline for formal bids.
Members of the governing body will now visit each of the three clubs, who will make formal presentations at the RFL’s Etihad Campus headquarters in August.
While this season’s League One line-up comprises only nine clubs, the RFL are transitioning to three divisions of twelve from 2026.
While membership of Super League will now be decided by IMG gradings, the Championship will reduce from 14 to 13 for next year, when a ‘super-eights’-style system, like that used in Super League and the Championship between 2015 and 2018, will be introduced to determine promotion and relegation between the two lower divisions.
The decrease in the number of professional clubs from the 2017 figure of 40 and in particular the shrinking of League One has been a major concern, with third-tier clubs having fewer fixtures and a number of bye rounds, with an obvious detrimental effect on income streams.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,438 (July 8, 2024)

Click here to purchase a digital edition of League Express.

Click here to purchase an online edition of League Express through

League Express is widely available from local newsagents across the North of England.