The Rugby Football League today announced that Oxford Rugby League club will enter Rugby League’s semi-professional Championship One competition in 2013.
Oxford will join fellow newcomers Hemel Stags and University of Gloucestershire All Golds in the restructured competition and will play their home games at the University of Oxford’s historic and iconic Iffley Road Rugby Ground.
The club have unveiled the experienced Tony Benson, previously of Championship clubs Leigh Centurions and Oldham, as their head coach.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “Oxford have assembled an extraordinarily strong, experienced and credible board who will provide first class leadership off the pitch and I am sure we can look forward to them putting an exciting and competitive team on the field.
“The new club has in place short term and long term player recruitment strategies and, as with the introduction of the University of Gloucestershire and Hemel Stags, we will see more players being introduced in to the sport.
“As we have made clear previously, the long term aim of introducing new teams into Championship One from new geographical areas is to unearth and develop new players, provide more opportunities and increase the sport’s playing pool. We are also aiming to grow the sport’s market by introducing new supporters to Rugby League.
“Given the expertise involved I’m very excited about the new club’s potential and genuinely believe that the Championships, and our sport in general, will reap huge benefits from their introduction, not just on the playing front but also commercially.”
Oxford’s board includes Cavaliers head coach Tevita Vaikona, Tony Colquitt, Simon Lee, Adrian Smith and Andrew Thomas
Vaikona is a former Hull FC, Bradford Bulls and Tonga international three-quarter who is now Director of Rugby at Oxford Rugby Football Club in North Hinksey, where the new Oxford Rugby League club will be based for training and administration.
Tony Colquitt has previously worked as Chief Executive of Super League club St Helens.
Adrian Smith is the Creative Director of Touch, an international live events and media agency who have also become the clubs first official sponsor.
Professor Simon Lee was instrumental in setting up the hugely successful sporting partnership policies of Leeds Metropolitan University through their Carnegie faculty, which led to so many colleges and universities supporting the game, and he is the author of The Z-A of Oxford Sport.
Andrew Thomas is the Head of Sports Development at the University of Oxford, where he has been guiding a major appeal to transform facilities for sport at the rugby ground and the famous athletics track.
Professor Simon Lee, Chairman of Oxford Rugby League said: “Some people think that establishing professional Rugby League in Oxford is a challenge to match the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen but we believe that Rugby League will flourish among the spires of Oxford and inspire generations of students at both universities here to support this great game.
“We will work hard to reach all communities in the city and county, 'town' as well as 'gown'. The spirit of this club is summed up in our web address: www.oxfordrugbyleagueinspires.com.”
As with previous teams, player supply will be key and Oxford will utilise experienced Rugby League consultants such as Andy Lindley to work in co-ordination with local colleges and universities as well as the armed forces to create a successful player pathway for community players to the new teams.
Players will be drawn from those studying in the city and county, former students, community clubs such as the Cavaliers, the armed forces, and the wider Rugby League-playing community.
The other new Championship One sides are already making great strides with Hemel Stags having recently completed their new stand and welcomed major sponsors, Haven Holidays, on board for next season.
New opportunities are already opening up for players from the South West as seven University of Gloucestershire All Golds players spent the summer playing at different clubs in the Championships whilst one of their under-18s was on trial at Leeds Rhinos. Two players from Exeter University, Nick O`Flanaghan and Hugo Frazer also enjoyed playing placements at Wakefield Wildcats over the summer.