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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Walney Central and Barrow Island keen on new Cumbria league

WALNEY Central and Barrow Island are the only two Furness clubs pushing ahead with a move into a new Cumbria League.

Barrow and District ARL officials will meet with their West Cumbrian counterparts at Workington on Wednesday to discuss plans for the new venture, due to start in March.

Cents and Barrow Island will join forces with teams from the west of the county, while the Barrow and District League – made up of the area’s A-teams – will also break new ground by switching to summer rugby.

Plans for a larger South Cumbria presence have been put on hold for the time being.

Millom and Askam decided early on to remain in the National Conference, while Roose Pioneers, Hindpool and Ulverston have now opted to stay in the North West Men’s League, which will enter its second season in 2013, despite persistent problems this year with unfulfilled fixtures.

Dalton gave the proposed Cumbria League some deep thought, but will continue to play in the winter season in the North West Counties.

Although disappointing that only two clubs have made the move, others may have a change of heart in 12 months’ time.

Barrow and District League secretary Terry Barker said: “Twelve months ago there was no interest from Barrow clubs for such a merger, but three weeks ago six clubs discussed the matter and went back to their committees with the concept of a merged league.

“Walney, Barrow Island and Dalton were very interested, but Dalton wish to remain a winter league team.

“Funding for the new league is in place and the RFL are to provide us with an independent chairman and clerical support.

“The funding will be towards travelling costs for clubs and they will provide transport for regular meetings between ourselves and West Cumbria.”

Walney chairman Shaun Morrow is right behind the move.

He said: “It was a players’ decision. We had a constructive meeting and they were all for it – we felt the North West Men’s League was a damp squib and BARLA and the RFL want the new league to succeed.

“The lads are looking forward to playing new opposition and the only negative is the A595 (the main route to West Cumbria).

“It is a pity that other Barrow clubs have not come on board – it would have been the next best thing to an all-Barrow and District League.

“We discussed the Conference, but we will be fully committed and the lads will meet up against players from the west who they played against in the past in the Cumberland under-18s league.”

Barrow Island stalwart John Jefferson added: “We are all for the new league – it will be a new challenge. It suits us and we feel it will be a high standard of rugby.

“They have some good teams in West Cumbria and it is a league the players are looking forward to being in.”

Last season’s North West Men’s League was a shambles for the area’s clubs, with several games called off due to teams from South Lancashire failing to fulfil fixtures in the Barrow area.

Reasons given included players being on holiday, on boozy nights away, work commitments and injuries – leaving Furness sides and players frustrated week after week without a game, while clubs from the Barrow area always travelled.

Fines of around £30 were the norm for not fulfilling fixtures – an easy cop-out and a saving of around £300-plus for travelling expenses, which our clubs paid out for all their away fixtures.

Barrow-based clubs had hoped fines would be heavier after the inaugural season, but instead new regulations do anything but.

Now, a 60-point charter will come into force with 10 points imposed for not fulfilling a fixture.

This accumulates into a £60 fine when the target has been reached – a £60 punishment for calling six games off.

Barrow League vice-chairman Jos Kenley said of the new league: “It’s a great idea, both geographically and economically – it’s not the best of roads but it is shorter.

“We look forward to some good games. There are good teams in the West Cumbria area and maybe, in time to come, other Barrow area teams will follow suit.”

League public relations officer Jeff Coward added: “It is a step in the right direction – it will be good for Cumbria as a whole as it should increase spectator interest and will be less expensive.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes, so let’s move forward.”

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