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Opinion

Why York are the team Super League needs

07 Nov 20, 6:52AM 0 Comments

Written by Callum Walker

Photo by York City Knights

There will be 12 teams in Super League next year – that has been decided by the Betfred Super League Board. But, with the Toronto Wolfpack’s exit from the top flight confirmed, that means there is one space left for a Championship side. But, who will that be?

That will be decided by a committee headed by an independent chairman – someone who has yet to be identified. Of course, there will be criteria that need to be met, but a number of second-tier sides have already thrown their names into the hat.

Featherstone Rovers and Toulouse Olympique have already submitted bids with Leigh Centurions and London Broncos expected to follow suit. But, amongst this eager crowd are the York City Knights.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a club that were in League 1 and heading for financial ruin just two years ago. Yet one mainstay through that trouble is head coach James Ford, who joined York ahead of the 2015 season. A young English coach with great pedigree in the game, Ford has helped steer the Knights within shouting distance of the top flight.

Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the new consortium that took over the Knights in December 2016 and the person at the helm of that group – Jon Flatman. The previous owner and council had rubbed each other up the wrong way so much so that club directors had announced a potential winding up of the club.

Flatman and his conglomerate saved the club, enabling the RFL to re-instate the Knights into League 1 for the 2017 season. And, from the start of that season, York finally found a new home for fixtures in 2017 and 2018 – York City’s Bootham Crescent – after years of uncertainty, whilst their team colours moved back to a traditional amber and black.

Since that date, the club haven’t looked back on and off the field, and, following promotion to the Championship in 2018 after winning all but two of their matches, the Knights have established themselves as a strong second-tier side.

Now that firm footing has allowed the club to seriously consider themselves a potential Super League side. The label of ‘heartland expansion’ that comes with their bid is a way of appealing to both ardent defenders of the sport’s history as well as those desiring to move away from the long-fixed M62 corridor of rugby league.

Naturally, more investment into a playing roster would be necessary, but the plans and structures are in place for York to be a stable, long-term option for Super League.

First of all, York is a massive tourist city and the prospects for game day are significant, especially with the new York Community Stadium being built. That stadium is adjacent to the Monks Cross Shopping Centre and is part of a wider leisure complex that will include a 25-metre, six-lane swimming pool, a sports hall, gym, five-a-side pitches and even an adventure sports zone.

Regular bus routes and ample car-parking spots will be available, and, though the stadium is a three-mile walk, it’s not exactly a marathon. The fans and city are one and the same; the brand is now an incredibly positive one with York itself thriving in economic and social terms.

The York Minster, the incredible River Ouse walks and the sheer array of independent stores and never-been-seen-before businesses is an away fan’s delight. Who wouldn’t want an away day in the beating hub of the Yorkshire county?

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