SHEFFIELD Eagles boss Mark Aston has welcomed the survival of Wakefield Wildcats in Super League for the next three seasons.
The Wildcats, coached by former Eagles chief John Kear, were given a lifeline when in a shock move financially troubled Welsh club Crusaders withdrew their application.
After going into administration for a spell earlier this season, Wakefield had been hotly tipped to be axed when the next licences were handed out yesterday.
“It is a bit of a surprise but I’m happy for Wakefield and their fans,” said Aston. “This seems to be a case of reality setting in. It’s about bums on seats and Wakefield have a good fan base.
“It is good that a Yorkshire club stays in the Super League. We will have to see if the Crusaders survive and play in the Championship next season. I’m not sure our fans will welcome another long away trip.”
Kear coached the Eagles to their 1998 Challenge Cup victory over Wigan – Aston and Paul Broadbent, now the assistant coach at the Wildcats were in the team.
Crusaders were controversially fast-tracked into the Super League in 2009 as part of a desire to widen the national appeal of rugby league.
Yesterday’s events will be seen as a major blow to the Rugby Football League’s expansion plans and it is not clear if Crusaders will continue in the lower leagues or fold completely.
The club has been plagued by financial problems and was kept alive by a £700,000 loan from the RFL with the Crusaders moving from South Wales to Wrexham at the start of 2010.
Crusaders’ players who include former Eagles forward Jordan James face an uncertain future. Ex-Eagles and Great Britain star Keith Senior was due to join Crusaders from Leeds next season but now says that deal is void.
RFL chairman Richard Lewis said: “As a direct result of the scrutiny applied by the licensing process, Crusaders decided to withdraw their licence application.
“The RFL will now enter into discussions with Crusaders regarding their possible participation in the Co-operative Championships.”
One of the current 14 Super League clubs had to make way for Widnes Vikings who were given the £3 million golden ticket by an independent Rugby Football League board four months ago.