New RFL interim chairman looks at the positives of rugby league

James Gordon

Interim RFL chairman Simon Johnson says he will use his six-month term to highlight the positives of rugby league.

Johnson, who wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would be standing for the role on a permanent basis, takes the reins from Brian Barwick, after his tenure came to an end following the RFL’s AGM on Wednesday.

The pair were flanked by new president Tony Adams and vice-president Carl Hall at a media conference at the Keepmoat Stadium.

He said: “We want to use the next few months to move from fit for purpose to fit for the future, and the board wants to be more focused on leading the game.

“It’s important that we begin to define the narrative for the sport and I intend to be relentlessly positive about the future of our game because I think there’s a great story for us to tell.

“We’re in the shop window, particularly as the season comes to its conclusion with exciting battles at both ends of all three of the top competitions, and with real interest as we build towards the 2021 World Cup.”

Johnson has been on the RFL board as a non-executive director since July 2014, and already chairs the Championship and League One forum, the audit and risk committee and other committees.

He added: “We’ve got a chance to start to tell that positive story this weekend with the triple header at Bolton, the final of the women’s Challenge Cup, the semi-finals of the men’s Challenge Cup and then the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup on Sunday.

“We’re doing some fascinating things in the world of digital. The Our League app now has over 110,000 members and has been showing live matches throughout the season, and we are one of the few, if not the only, sport to be showing live matches on our own platform.

“From that we’re getting really interesting live data about how successful sports, in particular team sports,  can be as we head towards a new broadcast world which we need to enter when it comes to an end in 2021.

“There’s real growth in the women’s game and there are really exciting developments in wheelchair rugby league, physical disability and learning disability rugby league.

“I’m looking forward to getting my teeth in to all those issues.

“Our relationship with our stakeholders is important. I want us to be more open, transparent, more honest.

“I want to enjoy the game and want people to talk positively about the game and I think we start to build the excitement to 2021.”

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