Tony Adams will become President of Rugby Football League in a surprise move ©Getty Images

Former footballer Tony Adams has been named as the next Rugby Football League (RFL) President.

The surprise appointment will see the ex-Arsenal and England captain replace Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, in the summer of 2019. 

Fifty-two-year-old Adams will become the 29th President of the RFL which governs the sport of rugby league in England and the top European competition, Super League.

Adams formed the Sporting Chance charity in 2000 which saw him forge close links with the sport's welfare programmes.

"It will be an honour to become the next President of the RFL," the former centre back said. 

"I am passionate about working with everyone in the sport to raise the profile of mental health, wellness and resilience, for players and for everyone in rugby league.

"I'd like to play my part in championing this brilliant sport on the national stage."

The RFL have also appointed New Zealander Carl Hall as vice president and Chris Hurst as non-executive director.

"Tony Adams is known and respected throughout sport and beyond, not only for his outstanding playing career with Arsenal, but more recently for his pioneering work with Sporting Chance," said RFL chairman Brian Barwick.

Tony Adams is one of Arsenal's most legendary footballers ©Getty Images
Tony Adams is one of Arsenal's most legendary footballers ©Getty Images

"The charity has helped more than 400 rugby league players since the RFL entered into an official partnership with Sporting Chance in 2011, and Tony himself delivered seminars at [Super League clubs] Wigan and Hull earlier this year.

"The game has recognised the importance of mental health, for players and everyone else involved, and Tony's election is another significant step in that regard."

Adams played for London-side Arsenal for his entire career, making more than 500 appearances for the Premier League club and becoming one of their most iconic players.

He won the league title four times, the FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice and the European Cup Winners' Cup once.

On the international stage he was capped 66 times by England, and he had spells as manager at English clubs Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth.

He has also served as manager with Azerbaijan side Gabala and Grenada in Spain.

During his career he fought a public battle against alcohol and drug addiction, with his experiences leading to the creation of Sporting Chance.