THE top man at Crusaders has quit following the club’s departure from Super League rugby.

Rod Findlay has stepped down with immediate effect as chief executive of the Wrexham-based club, nine months after he joined.

His time at the helm began with helping to lead Crusaders out of administration and ended with him fronting a bid for them to enter the Co-operative Championship.

The club dropped its bid to continue in Super League in July and played its final match, an way defeat to Wigan Warriors, on Friday.

In a statement Mr Findlay said: “It is a great regret the owners decided to withdraw the Super League application because we were building something really good here – on and off the pitch – and North Wales is an area that has taken rugby league to its heart.

“That is shown with a really loyal and vocal supporter base and they have been magnificent all season.

“We’ve also got an under-18s up and running and the community team has got thousands of people playing the game for the first time.

“Ensuring this work is protected is central to the business plan and I know if the club is viable the sport can also grow at professional level in Wrexham.”

Mr Findlay backed the new business plan at the heart of the club’s Championship application, currently being considered by the Rugby Football League (RFL).

Supporters are expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the way the club is run should it be successful.

Mr Findlay added: “There is a lot of local support and some prominent local people pushing for a club under new ownership in 2012.

“This needs to be locally led with everyone getting behind a sustainable club. I want the club to succeed and I have pledged to buy a season ticket if it survives.

“Crusaders in 2011 was a massive challenge and it is a credit to the professionalism of the players, coaches, volunteers and off-field staff that we all got on and did our jobs despite the massive uncertainty.

“I would like to thank them all.”

Mr Findlay added the RFL could not have done more to assist the club.

Thousands of fans have signed the online Save the Cru! petition to help safeguard the club’s future, while many businesses have pledged support.

Maurice Jones, a member of the Crusaders supporters club committee, said: “As supporters we have appreciated what Mr Findlay has done during a very difficult period.

“He has played a massive part in our application for the Co-operative Championship next year and we would like to thank him for all the hard work he has put in.”

Mr Jones said he did not expect Mr Findlay’s exit to have an impact on the club’s Co-Operative Championship bid.

RFL officials are due to meet Crusaders representatives today or tomorrow, although a decision may not be announced until next month.