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Incoming RFL president Sir Lindsay Hoyle vows to ‘make a real difference’

Sir Lindsay Hoyle intends to “make a real difference” when he becomes president of the RFL (Simon Wilkinson/ handout)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle intends to “make a real difference” when he becomes president of the RFL (Simon Wilkinson/ handout)

Sir Lindsay Hoyle intends to “make a real difference” when he becomes president of the Rugby Football League.

The 65-year-old Speaker of the House of Commons will become the 31st president of the governing body in December and insists he will not simply be a ceremonial figurehead.

In an interview with the PA news agency, the long-serving Labour politician revealed how he has been flying the flag for rugby league ever since becoming MP for Chorley in 1997.

“I’m still president of the All Party Parliamentary Group and I always bring rugby league up in the House whenever I can,” he said.

“Behind the scenes I’ve been very active and always will be because I’ve got this great passion for rugby league.”

Sir Lindsay played a significant role in securing a £16million Government emergency loan to help rugby league through the coronavirus pandemic and did not waste an opportunity to raise the game’s profile when hosting the annual G7 Speakers Conference last September, presenting each of his counterparts, including Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, with personalised Warrington shirts.

G7 Speakers’ Conference
Sir Lindsay Hoyle presented a Warrington short to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, during the G7 Summit (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA handout)

He is steeped in rugby league, having been introduced to the game by his father in the 1970s.

Doug Hoyle, now 96, was MP for Warrington and chairman of the town’s rugby league club from 1999-2009 but by then his son had already performed that role with another professional club, having helped Wigan-based Springfield Borough relocate to Chorley in 1988.

“From then on, I’ve been involved in rugby league all the way through,” he said.

Sir Lindsay is accustomed to feisty exchanges in his role as Speaker and says he had run-ins with the RFL during his active involvement in the game, revealing he voted against the £87m Sky deal in 1995.

Election/Doug Hoyle filer
Doug Hoyle, a former MP and now peer, introduced his son Lindsay to rugby league (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“I’ve been known not to support them,” he said. “When Super League came in, it was meant to be for the benefit of all. But it wasn’t, it was for the benefit of the few, to the exclusion of the many.

“Don’t get me wrong, Super League has been great and the money investment has been great but what you don’t do is cut off the funds to other clubs.

“So I didn’t support the Sky deal, far from it. Some turkeys might vote for Christmas – this turkey didn’t.

“What I will say is that we’ve have had our differences but the one thing we all have in common in a passion for the game.

“What I want to see is a more integrated game so that it’s seamless from the top to the bottom.”

Sir Lindsay is happy to enter into the debate about the merits of having two French clubs in Super League and insists more ought to be done to spread the game throughout England.

“I was so excited when they brought in a new club in Cornwall,” he said. “It was a green area for us and now we’ve got to build on it, don’t let them disappear.

“I’m not that keen on creating clubs in New York or Canada. I don’t think it adds anything to our game. In fact, all it does is take money out of the game when we should be investing in the UK.

“I’m far from anti-Catalans or Toulouse but in the end has it helped French rugby league internationally? That’s the question we should be asking. Somebody needs to do the analysis.

England v Germany – UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Final – Wembley Stadium
Sir Lindsay Hoyle wants England’s women to replicate the success of the Lionesses in the World Cup (Danny Lawson/PA)

“If there’s a real benefit, then fantastic. We need to do more in London, we need to make sure we don’t have a gap between the north and London. There is so much more we can do.”

The RFL has entered into a 12-year agreement with IMG to “re-imagine” the sport and Sir Lindsay says he will be happy to play a role in any reorganisation.

“I am so passionate about the game, I will work with anyone because I want to make a real difference,” he said.

“I want to be that true supporter of rugby league not just somebody who turns up and nods. Whatever I can do to lift the profile, I will.

“It’s a great sport. The problem we have is that not enough people know about it.

“Let’s build on the success of the Lionesses. They lifted the whole profile of women within football and I would love to see our women picking up the World Cup as well.”