You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
'Visionary and innovator': Tributes flow for Maurice Lindsay

Tributes have poured in from around the rugby league world for Maurice Lindsay, who is considered the most influential English administrator of the modern era.

Lindsay, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81, is best known in Australia for his role in the Super League war and turning Wigan into a global powerhouse who travelled to Brisbane to beat the Broncos midway through the 1994 season before a record World Club Challenge crowd of 54,220.

As RFL CEO he oversaw the introduction of fulltime professionalism in England, the establishment of the Super League competition, grand finals and the move to playing in summer to avoid going head to head with the Premier League.

Lindsay was team manager on the 1992 Lions tour to Australia
Lindsay was team manager on the 1992 Lions tour to Australia ©NRL Photos

Current RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer said Lindsay would be remembered as "one of the most significant leaders in the sport’s history". 

After rejuvenating the World Club Challenge concept when he invited Ken Arthurson's Manly to England for a winner takes all clash with Wigan in 1987, Lindsay became Great Britain team manager and later IRL chairman.

He was awarded life membership of the IRL for his services to the game. 

IRL chairman Troy Grant said: “Maurice was a true rugby league pioneer and internationalist. He will be sadly missed. We send our sympathy to his family and friends".

Former Kiwis halfback and commentator Gary Freeman with Maurice Lindsay
Former Kiwis halfback and commentator Gary Freeman with Maurice Lindsay ©NRL Photos

After helping to save Wigan from relegation in 1980, Lindsay oversaw an era of dominance to rival the great St George team of 1956-1966 as the club won eight League Championships between 1987-1996 and nine Challenge Cup finals.

Wigan also beat Manly (1987), Penrith (1991) and Brisbane (1994) in the World Club Challenge.

The success was built on the recruitment of star such as Brett Kenny, Dean Bell, Ellery Hanley, Jason Robinson, Martin Offiah, Frano Botica, Joe Lydon and Andy Gregory, while producing local talent of the calibre of Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell.

Offiah, who was signed by Lindsay in 1992 for a then world record fee of £440,000, said he was forever grateful to the then Wigan chairman.

“He was a visionary and an innovator," Offiah told Wigan Today. "You can’t look back on his life without saying he really turned Wigan into the club it is today.

"When you think of the players who have gone on to play for England, it stemmed from Maurice doing what did. Without that platform, the sport of rugby wouldn’t be what it is today. There’s so many things you can trace back to him.

“Life is risky, and he took risks. The things the club did, like the game against Manly with £100,000 on the line or taking Wigan to Sydney to play in the World Cup Sevens in the middle of a Challenge Cup run, takes some balls to do that and for it to come off."

Martin Offiah is collared by Kangaroos winger Rod Wishart in 1992
Martin Offiah is collared by Kangaroos winger Rod Wishart in 1992 ©NRL Photos

Edwards told The Mirror: “The whole of rugby league owes him so much.”

“What I remember most is all those victories at Wembley, where he led us out on a number of occasions, and just the competitive edge that Maurice had," Edwards said.

"And then, going to Super League and negotiating not in terms of £100,000s but millions and millions of pounds. That obviously helped the game at the time and continues to help it as rugby league is still with Sky now.

"That was 26 years ago. The fact he had the guts and ambition to think ahead, we all have a lot to thank him for.”

Former Wigan, Newcastle Knights and Gold Coast Titans winger Brian Carney, now a successful commentator in England, said Lindsay understood that sport was entertainment.

"He believed in what he was going to do and more often than not he was proven correct," Carney told Sky Sports. "He didn't care what the papers wrote about him, just that they spent his name right."

Lindsay could also be a polarising figure and he fell out with Arthurson during the Super League war after the English game aligned with the rebel competition on the back of an £87 million investment by News Corp.

However, he revolutionised the international game, with the Pacific nations joining the IRL board and helping him become chairman, while also establishing a Super League club in Paris in 1996.

Lindsay at the Super League Nines in Fiji in 1996
Lindsay at the Super League Nines in Fiji in 1996 ©Photosport NZ

“Maurice had plenty of critics during his time in the game, anyone who has a vision and has a strong will to lead will always find people who believe they could do different or better," Leeds chairman Garry Hetherington said.

"But his record of success, not just on the field with Wigan but the profile that side brought to the game, should never be underestimated as their players and indeed the chairman [Lindsay] himself became household names across the country. 

“On a personnel level, I had many battles with Maurice but I always believed he had the best interest of the game at heart and he achieved a great deal.

"It is true that he ruled by fear and favour and generally got things done but it was hard to fall out with him for long.

“Maurice will be remembered for his time and success at Wigan in the 1980s, how he rejuvenated the club and how he presided over the historic introduction of Rugby League to Sky Sports and the birth of Super League in 1996."

 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

VIEW ALL PARTNERS