The RFL has today confirmed that Northampton will enter Rugby League’s semi-professional Championship One competition in 2013.
The Midlands team will be owned and run by Northampton Town Football Club and will play at the club’s Sixfields Stadium whilst maintaining close links with the area’s existing community Rugby League team, Northampton Demons.
The RFL is confident that the new venture will build on the great progress which the sport has made in the region in recent years.
Northampton will also benefit from a link up with Super League club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, who will share their Rugby League expertise and best practice with the newcomers.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “We’re delighted to announce that Northampton will be the first of the four new clubs which will take their place in Championship One in 2013.
“There is great potential here and the club is based on solid foundations with a strong business plan.
“There are thousands of Rugby League supporters in the region that attend major RFL events such as the Challenge Cup Final and now they have a team on their doorstep we hope they get behind the new team.
“The RFL will work closely with club officials over the next 12 months to help them prepare for their debut in Championship One in the spring of March 2013.
“As with all the clubs who have applied to join the Championships, a huge amount of due diligence has been done on Northampton’s bid with the club being judged on finances, playing standard and business acumen.
“Northampton are the first club past the post and we’re looking forward to naming the other three new clubs over the coming months.”
Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium is no stranger to professional Rugby League having hosted the Super League fixture between Sheffield Eagles and Halifax in July 1998 which Halifax won 32-10 in front of over 3,000 supporters.
The venue is also scheduled to hopefully undergo further redevelopment work over the next few years to raise the capacity and the idea of attracting spectators to the stadium all year round was a major part of the appeal for the football club.
Gary Campbell, the first team manager of the Northampton Demons community side said: “The Northampton area has an abundance of talented young rugby players. Northampton Demons not only see this as a fantastic opportunity to professionally develop the club at senior level, but to also offer these youngsters a route into professional sport.
“All our members are very excited at the thought of professional Rugby League coming to Northampton and are looking forward to taking the opportunities that lie ahead.”
David Cardoza, Northampton Town Football Club Chairman said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a place in the Rugby League Championship One and we are very excited about the challenge and the opportunities ahead of us.
“The Midlands is a huge catchment, and we know there are thousands of Rugby League supporters in this area. Northamptonshire is something of a centre for sport, and this is an ideal opportunity for us to add to the town’s ever growing sporting portfolio. The infastructure for the Rugby League club will come from the current Football Club staff, duplicating and expanding the roles they currently hold for the Football Club.
“We believe this represents a superb chance to attract more people to Northampton and to Sixfields in particular as the stadium becomes ever more a 24:7 venue, playing host to an increasing range of events and attractions.”
The Midlands is a major growth area for Rugby League and Northampton in particular has enjoyed a rapid increase in people playing the sport.
In 2009 and 2010 Northampton Demons were the Co-operative Rugby League Conference Regional Champions and in 2011 Northampton Demons ran two men’s teams and six youth and junior sides, representing real success for a club which wasn’t formed until late 2006.
There are currently four players from Northampton at professional clubs who have come up through the ranks: Dan Brotherton (St Helens Under-20s), Will Lovell, Matt Meek (London Broncos Under-20s) and Jamie Cottle (Sheffield Eagles).
There are also five Under-16s players from the area registered with the RFL Midlands Scholarship with a further three at Sheffield Eagles.