The Hatton’s Solicitors National Conference League will be playing summer Rugby League from March 2012.
That was the outcome of an historic meeting of the 38 National Conference League clubs on Monday evening when they voted 28-10 to accept the Rugby Football League’s invitation to operate the Conference North division of Tier 3 of the new summer structure, under licence.
The NCL is the very highest echelon of amateur rugby league with all its clubs complying with strict membership criteria that encompass top line facilities, sound business and financial principles and a powerful playing set up that includes strong youth and junior set-ups.
The NCL is the first winter amateur league to opt to make the switch, and the Management Committee will now formulate a short winter season from September through to early November, before a short break and the start of the 2012 campaign on the first weekend in March 2012.
The clubs’ vote widely reflected the findings of the recent survey carried out among players, coaches and administrators, which had indicated that almost 70 per cent were in favour of a switch to a summer playing season. This figure had been challenged as not being representative by certain pro-winter campaigners, but the Monday night vote mirrored those findings.
“The vote was to accept the licence offer of the RFL,” explained NCL Chairman, Trevor Hunt. “Now those clubs who voted against the switch can reassess and decide whether they want to be part of this exciting new challenge or remain in winter.
“I know a number of clubs voted against the motion because they had specific ground or scheduling issues but we will work with them and the RFL to iron out those difficulties in the hope that they can then feel comfortable in making the switch to the new season format.
“We want all the present clubs to move as one if possible and I will be speaking to them all personally to see how we can best achieve that goal. But we will fully respect the wishes of any club that feels their interests are best served by remaining in a winter competition.
“It was a momentous meeting not only for the NCL, but the sport of rugby league in general.
“However this is not the end of the process, but merely the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in the NCL’s history and that of rugby league.
“The NCL now has the opportunity to determine and drive forward the future of rugby league at grass roots level and this League will be working hard to ensure that we are as successful in that endeavour as we have been in raising standards within the amateur ranks for the past 25 years.”