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RUGBY LEAGUE: Oxford's new side to shine
OXFORD chairman Simon Lee believes the newly-formed rugby league club will flourish in the city.
The club will play in the semi-professional Championship One competition – rugby league’s third tier – when they take the field in March as part of plans to develop the sport across the UK.
Their home games will be at Iffley Road, with Oxford RFC’s Southern Bypass ground providing their training and administration base.
Lee is a former chairman of Leeds Carnegie rugby union and was instrumental in linking Leeds Metropolitan University with the Yorkshire city’s rugby clubs.
He 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.”
Oxford’s head coach is Tony Benson, who has previously coached Championship clubs Leigh Centurions and Oldham and is now assembling a squad with the help of consultants.
A number of players are expected to be drawn from Oxford’s two universities and RAF Brize Norton , as well as further afield.
Oxford’s board also includes dual-code Tongan international Tevita Vaikona, ex-St Helens chief executive Tony Colquitt, Adrian Smith, of club sponsor Touch, and Andrew Thomas – Oxford University ’s head of sports development.
They join fellow newcomers Hemel Stags and University of Gloucestershire All Golds in the restructured competition.
Rugby Football League 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.
“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 Championship, and our sport in general, will reap huge benefits from their introduction, not just on the playing front but also commercially.”
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