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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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King Ralph’s thumbs up for new Raiders

RUGBY Football League boss Ralph Rimmer has been impressed with the progress made at Barrow Raiders under the club’s new board.

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HEAVY WORKLOAD: RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer RLPHOTOS.COM

The RFL Chief Operating Officer – raised in Flookburgh and a former Ulverston amateur player, as well being a one-time Barrow RL trialist – has been keeping a close eye on affairs at Craven Park since the club’s relegation in October.

The financial problems at Barrow – with record debts of more than £550,000 and repeated breaches of the salary cap in the previous season – have put them in the spotlight and under scrutiny.

The board themselves have recognised this is an inevitable result of the club having broken the rules for so long, but Rimmer says the current directors have impressed him.

He has been particularly pleased with the openness he has found from new chairman Jimmy Tongue and his board, as well as the way the team have gone about rebuilding on the field.

“From a distance, I have been really happy seeing what has happened,” said Rimmer, who came through the junior playing ranks at Dragley Beck.

“Certainly from where we sit, it looks like the new board and new set-up have been very well accepted by the community and the town have supported them.

“They have been really open with us. We have helped them with a difficult period and you build relationships when you do that.

“As a result, they have been really open with us and I have been really pleased to see what has happened.

“I was really pleased to see the draw with Workington (in pre-season), knowing that there were a lot of local lads involved and back at the club.

“Having the local players is crucial to them and that is really good to see. It’s fantastic to have almost all the players being from the area. It’s really impressive for them to have done that.

“For them to have brought in the amateur players and not upset the amateur clubs takes some doing as well.”

He added: “Because of where Barrow is, it needs to be a club that is largely the product of local talent. There is a lot of local talent there and when anyone tries to drive it down that route, and with the support of the local clubs, it has a really good chance of being successful.

“In doing that, it galvanises the local community as well and breeds support.”

Rimmer stressed that the RFL will continue to help Barrow as much as possible as they look to rebuild from their problems. While they will continue to monitor goings on, he added: “We’re not ‘Big Brother’.

“You will find that most clubs have come to us at one time or another for help and guidance, and we absolutely want to see every club under our umbrella be successful.

“Helping Barrow is just one of the things that we do.”

That help does not extend to aiding them in a bid for promotion to the Championship come the end of the current season.

Rimmer was instrumental in the decision by the RFL to expand the Championships next season, with four new clubs coming in at the lower level and four being promoted to the higher level this time round.

Northampton have already been confirmed as one of the new sides, with three more to follow and Rimmer is aware that all the current teams want to avoid being stuck in an expansion division, while feeling their fears are unnecessary.

He added: “If you talk to every team in Championship One, they will all say they are going up this year and we all know there are only four going up this year.

“Another interesting factor in the situation is that next year, when everybody has a little apprehension about the new teams, those new teams in the competition are actually going to be closer than some of the teams currently in the league.

“At this moment in time, Championship One is made up of three Cumbrian teams, two Welsh teams, a team from Gateshead, a team from London – it is a very widely spread league.

“The teams who will be coming in, Northampton is a lot closer to the main area and other teams will be closer still.

“It is almost a mindset. There are four chances to go up and that has people excited.”

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