TWO huge contributors to rugby league have died, the RFL's former chief executive David Oxley CBE and commentator Malcolm Lord.

The Rugby Football League have paid tribute to Oxley, 85, who also held the roles of secretary, and president during his crucial term in the sport's administration.

Oxley joined the RFL in 1974, when the sport was at a low ebb, and led its modernisation and transformation before leaving in 1992 at the compulsory retirement age of 55.

He remained closely involved, and was appointed to the ceremonial role of president for 2013-14, a period which included the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Simon Johnson, the RFL chairman, said: “David Oxley was a hugely significant off-field figure in the history of the Rugby Football League and the sport of rugby league in this country, and as chair of the RFL I send deepest condolences to his family and many friends, inside and outside the sport.

Runcorn and Widnes World: David OxleyDavid Oxley (Image:

“It is a remarkable tribute to David’s personality that despite holding the position of chief executive for a long period, and taking many tough and important decisions, he remained such a popular and respected man – and also an outstanding ambassador for rugby league in the corridors of power.

“All now involved with the RFL recognise our debt to those who have gone before us, and David Oxley will always be remembered for his contribution to the sport.”

David Howes joined the RFL shortly after David Oxley in 1974, as the sport’s first public relations officer - later becoming the first chief executive of St Helens RLFC and then managing director of Leeds Rugby Limited.

The two Davids forged a close personal friendship, as well as a highly effective working relationship.

"In 1974 Rugby League was the favourite subject for the sporting prophets of doom," said Howes in a personal tribute to Oxley.

"Dynamic Rugby Football League chairman Brian Snape, of revitalised Salford RLFC fame, wanted a new image for the ailing 13-a-side code.

"The shock appointment as RFL secretary of public school deputy headmaster David Oxley did just that.

"A native of Hull and closet supporter of Hull KR, Oxley beat off the challenge of fellow applicants with illustrious Rugby League administrative/playing/coaching profiles.

"Oxley turned the tide of pessimism within and outside the game with a natural intelligence, charm and determination which became his trademark.

"He cast aside longstanding prejudices and provided his full backing to the emergence of BARLA, led by Tom Keaveney and Maurice Oldroyd, and the advancement of the National Coaching Scheme under Laurie Gant and Albert Fearnley.

"This support for the roots of the game became a cornerstone of a new positive era.

"Oxley provided support for new marketing initiatives in television, sponsorship, press relations and big match events, catapulting Rugby League out of the doldrums into an era of commercial and participation expansion.

"He became the ambassador for the 13-a-side code at home and abroad, casting aside parochialism to introduce the sport to the London-based sporting authorities and give the UK a much-needed voice on the RL International Board.

"Serving the headquarters at Chapeltown Road, Leeds, for 18 years Oxley was the last of the long-serving RFL bosses, following the likes of John Wilson and Bill Fallowfield.

"Honoured by the Queen, Oxley in recent years has continued his support for the university game and cared for his wife Bridget at their Harrogate home.

"On a personal note, I am proud and privileged to have joined the RFL in late 1974 as first-ever public pelations officer and become a partner of The Two Davids during nearly two decades of revitalisation with the support of the clubs, the fans, the media and the amateur ranks."

Malcolm Lord is synonymous with rugby league through his broadcasting for BBC Radio Manchester, although is even more well known these days as an after-dinner speaker and master of ceremonies working alongside some of the greatest names in sport.

He was a regular at the likes of Wilderspool Stadium, Knowsley Road, Central Park and The Willows in the 1990s, providing live match commentary usually accompanied by ex-Wire and Leigh hooker Kevin Ashcroft as the expert summariser.

Lord, however, was sport mad, not just a huge rugby league follower.

He was from Rochdale and is a former secretary of the town's rugby league club, Rochdale Hornets.

Lord, married to Millie for more than 50 years and a father of two, had a 15-year career as a BBC sporting commentator.

He became wheelchair bound due to a debilitating muscle condition but did not allow this to prevent him from his work.