Dr Marwan Koukash has not been short of making the headlines in recent years. Now the former Salford owner has broached the idea of backing a new team in Cumbria - one of the traditional heartlands of Rugby League. Though the plan is still very much in its infancy, Koukash is fancying a new project in the sport after his unsuccessful reign at Salford. The main question on everyone's lips however, is could such an idea work?

Cumbrian Lakers

The county of Cumbria already has three professional or semi-professional teams - Barrow Raiders in the Championship and Whitehaven and Workington Town in League One.

Now, Koukash wants to add a fourth - although the Palestine-born businessman did state that he would welcome any of the three clubs to join forces with him - and call it Cumbrian Lakers.

Cumbria is an area is crying out for investment - and it is currently being lost to the wave of new, expansion sides outside of the M62 corridor. Only Workington Town have played in the Super League - and that was in the summer game's inaugural season in 1996 when they were relegated the same year. Cumbrian sides since then have struggled to get anywhere near the top-flight - although Whitehaven came close in the mid-2000s - and all three appear destined to stay in the lower leagues. With a sprinkle of Koukash magic however, could a Cumbrian side ever make it to Super League?

Why it could work

Koukash has plenty of money - that's quite obvious - but it was wasted on Salford. The move from the dilapidated but atmospheric Willows to a new stadium in Eccles may well have ticked a box regarding club facilities, but it was the catalyst of Salford's downfall. Crowds have dwindled ever since their move back in 2012 and even with Koukash's investment, the fans never came back.

In a city where football quite obviously takes precedence - the two Manchester sides are the heavyweights of the area - and where other Lancashire sides such as St Helens, Wigan and Leigh are able to attract impressive attendances, Koukash was flogging a dead horse from the outset.

Instead, Cumbria is a hotbed of Rugby League.

Though the attendance figures at Craven Park, The Recreation Ground and Derwent Park are far from inspiring, if Koukash created an exciting and innovating new idea in the area, the crowds would be sure to come. Koukash himself stated, in an interview with BBC Manchester, that Rugby League is more popular than football in the county.

"About three weeks ago I was in West Cumbria and it was amazing the number of kids walking around wearing Leeds or Wigan shirts and not wearing Manchester United or Liverpool shirts.

"I'm not suggesting we bring teams together. What I'm suggesting is we create a club there and call it Cumbrian Lakers or whatever."

Though Whitehaven drew in a crowd of only 758 for their first home game of 2018 and Workington just 641, the appetite for Rugby League is there in Cumbria.

Just look at the 2016 Four Nations game held in Workington: there were nearly 7,000 spectators present for the clash between New Zealand and Scotland. Supporters in the area need something to get excited about. The current crop of Cumbrian sides are not doing that.


Koukash - after four years as Chairman of the Salford Red Devils - now has the vital experience he so badly lacked when he first came into the sport in 2013. The multimillionaire clearly knows that throwing unlimited amounts of money at something does not necessarily guarantee success. Indeed, it was when Koukash retreated from the limelight and let new head coach Ian Watson build his own side that Salford began to gather increasing momentum on the field.

Koukash came into the sport all guns blazing, but now he appears to have mellowed quite a fair bit. He clearly understands that these things take time and is unlikely to rush into things second time around. Plus, with his fortune still very much present, Koukash is intent on staying in the sport. Cumbria needs an investor; the county is losing its Rugby League pedigree, Koukash can reverse this.

Quality players

Cumbria has produced some brilliant players over the years; Brad Singleton, Kyle Amor, Shaun Lunt and James Donaldson are just some of those from the county to make it in Rugby League. The current amateur teams are doing a fantastic job; Kells, Wath Brow and Egremont are making great strides in the National Conference Premier.

Just imagine how good the next crop of youngsters would be if there was a scholarship system in which these players could gain access to Super League.

A Cumbrian Super League team has long been a proposal in Rugby League, going back as far as the switch to the summer game when it was initially proposed Barrow Raiders, Workington Town and Whitehaven would merge. That merger, along with the others proposed at the time, was successfully resisted and the trio continue to maintain strong, individual identities. But, the area needs something more to give its players the chances to make it in the game.

The idea of the three Cumbrian teams at present being a feeder team for Koukash's project is also a possibility.

This would not only keep the strong identity of the three sides, but it would also create a team that represents the whole county. Effectively, the Cumbrian Lakers would be made up of the best players from those three sides. Whilst this would damage the success of Workington, Whitehaven and Barrow, it would produce a much stronger county side and one which could become an entrenched top-flight side.

A good option

Whilst the idea is just words at present, it is surely worth thinking about. Cumbria is crying out for a successful side and, being in the Rugby League heartland, those in the area will definitely get on-board. Starting from the bottom up as Koukash plans to do will suit his outlandish style more than if he took over a club like he did at Salford. I say go for it Koukash, what have you got to lose?