West Wales Raiders withdraw from League 1

James Gordon

League 1 will run as a 10-team competition in 2023 after West Wales Raiders announced their withdrawal.

The Raiders won just two of their 86 league games since entering the competition in 2018, taking over the spot of South Wales Ironmen.

Their history can be traced back to the formation of South Wales Scorpions, created in 2010 when the old Celtic Crusaders relocated from Bridgend to Wrexham.

The highlight of the Raiders era was when Wales rugby union legend Gavin Henson turned out alongside Rangi Chase for West Wales in a BBC televised Challenge Cup clash against Widnes.

A club statement said: “It’s with great sadness that we have to write this but the West Wales Raiders will not be competing within the RFL professional league in the 2023 season.

“The club informed the RFL on Wednesday that they will not be taking part in either competition this season.

“After 5 seasons within the professional ranks both Andrew & Peter felt it was the right time to give someone else an opportunity to try and take the club on within the sport. Numerous parties have shown interest but most have fallen once they realised how much personal finances and time is needed to run a club within League 1.

“The owners will continue to support the RFL & WRL to try and find a new group to keep a professional club within Wales especially after all the great work being done within the community by WRL over the past 12 months.”

Back in 2015, the third tier boasted 14 teams but in recent years has seen the departure of Oxford, Gloucestershire All Golds and Hemel Stags.

Reaction from around the league

Other League 1 clubs have been responding to the news.

Hunslet chairman Kenny Sykes said: “Obviously this is sad news. My first thoughts are with the players, staff, supporters and the Board of West Wales. I have had first-hand experience of a club closing down and it is an upsetting time for all concerned.

“It is fair to say West Wales have struggled on the field for a number of years and that makes it difficult to build a supporter base.  However, that does not detract from the hard work the people involved at the Club have put in season after season. We wish them all well for the future.

“This means two less games for Hunslet next season and we will assess what this means from a playing and financial perspective over the next week. We will issue an update early in the new year.”

It has already been decided that the fixture list will remain as it was, just with the withdrawal of West Wales – which means clubs will have an extra two weekends free in the calendar.

As there was previously an odd number of teams, clubs already had two weekends free, but it was felt that amending the fixture list would be too impactful at this time.

An RFL statement added: “The introduction of loop fixtures to avoid blank weekends was considered, however with a full 22-round fixture list already announced it was felt that it would be too disruptive to redraw the fixture list.

“Additionally, with the top team in the table securing automatic promotion it was felt that the introduction of loop fixtures might benefit some clubs whilst compromising the promotion prospects of others.”

The withdrawal of West Wales impacts the season ticket offering of other clubs, as they all now lose one home game.

Doncaster have already confirmed that there will be no reductions due to the current low price point.

A Workington statement read: “The news of the withdrawal is obviously sad to hear. Our thoughts are with the board, players and fans of the West Wales club.

“The Town board will now digest any implications and discuss over the Christmas break. We will then communicate with our fans in the New Year.”

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