CLARE Balding has been named as the next president of the Rugby Football League.

The broadcaster’s two-year term will start in July of next year, when she will replace the current incumbent – former Arsenal and England football captain Tony Adams.

Mike Smith, the current chief executive of Hull Kingston Rovers, will support Balding as vice-president.

Balding, who used to be the face of the BBC’s rugby league coverage, expressed her excitement at being involved with the sport again as the RFL prepares to welcome the men’s, women’s and wheelchair Rugby League World Cups to England in 2021.

“I am so proud to be asked to help promote the wonderful sport of rugby league,” she said.

“As I know from my time presenting the game and following it as a fan, it is full of tradition and history but has a truly modern outlook.

“It’s going global with teams from Europe and Canada alongside the great traditional clubs and I think this is a really exciting time.

“I am particularly thrilled to be involved as we head to the Rugby League World Cup in 2021, the first major international sports event to embrace the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments together.

“Rugby league does great work in its communities and leads the way with inclusion in sport, and the growth of women’s rugby league in particular has been wonderful to watch.

“I have loved it since I watched it as a child with my grandmother, who used to tell me, ‘Now this is a proper sport.’

I realised how true that was when I started presenting it for the BBC and have always admired the team spirit, friendly atmosphere and strong moral code that it encourages.

I have always felt welcomed by the rugby league family and I can’t wait to spend more time with the sport’s many characters.

“I am honoured to be the next President of the Rugby Football League and will promote r ugby league nationally and internationally.

“I will be supporting the current RFL President Tony Adams as he continues his great work to champion the sport and look forward to taking up my role in summer 2020.”

RFL chair Simon Johnson is confident Balding’s profile will be “a huge asset” to the game.

“Our sport has been enhanced by having so many distinguished bearers of the offices of President and Vice President - Tony Adams and Carl Hall are proving to be superb office holders this year,” he said.

“We are delighted that the members of the Rugby League Council have agreed wholeheartedly with our recommendation that Clare Balding and Mike Smith will be fitting successors in 2020-21.

“Clare’s profile and popularity, coupled with her authentic love of the sport, will be a huge asset to rugby league as we look forward to hosting three World Cups – Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair – in England in 2021.

“Mike has given outstanding service to Hull Kingston Rovers in the professional game and also has a deep knowledge of the Community game from his previous roles with Skirlaugh.

“Both will bring tremendous value to our sport in our 125th year. I look forward to welcoming them to their roles in the summer.”