New bonds as Knights build bridges with amateur rugby clubs

York Press: Knights chairman John Guildford Knights chairman John Guildford

RUGBY league in the Minster city is set for an all-round boost after York City Knights and neighbouring amateur clubs agreed to end old divisions and work together.

A new agreement will see improved links between the clubs, with stronger player pathways and player identification for both the professional and amateur arena, as well as mutual support and positive promotion to boost attendances.

In a notable move, York Acorn ARLC head coach Scott Rhodes, a former Knights captain, who at times has been at loggerheads with his old employers, will now scout for the pro club.

He will also act as coach for the representative York Select XIII who, it has now been confirmed, will again meet the Knights in a pre-season friendly in the new year.

Clubs have also agreed in principle to dual-register players, if such a system between the pro and amateur arenas, as has long been mooted, is ratified by the Rugby Football League.

Off the field, meanwhile, amateur clubs will be given cashback for ticket sales for Knights matches.

Knights chairman John Guildford is delighted to have thrashed out differences, not least with the ever-expanding Acorn – one of the biggest sports clubs in York, who are based in a rich rugby league area.

He said: “We’re agreeing a memorandum of understanding with all the clubs to work together for the betterment of rugby league in the city.

“We all want the game to be strong, and working together has to be the way forward. It’s a big breakthrough. We’ve had a good meeting with Acorn and Scott and they’re really behind it. It’s got to work really. None of us are in a position to keep fighting.

“We understand the complaints they’ve had and I hope they understand our position. We should be providing them with more players and they should be helping players to play at the best level they can play at.

“We need to support them and in turn they should support us, on and off the field. We put a proposal together to work openly and honestly with each other and get a proper working relationship.”

The professional club’s relationship with amateur outfits has not always been plain sailing, and in recent years it has been particularly frayed with Acorn, with the National Conference League side bemoaning what they say is an ad hoc use of their players for Knights reserve and development teams.

They also argue that Super League clubs offer their youngsters a better pathway in the pro arena.

Support the other way for the Knights, meanwhile, has not always been forthcoming, both behind the scenes and on the terraces.

However, official agreement to the new memorandum of understanding has come from Acorn and New Earswick All Blacks, whose head coach is Knights development chief Jack Stearman, with agreement in principle from York Lokomotive, to be ratified at an upcoming committee meeting.

Heworth’s committee meet tonight, but are expected to join up too, with boss Tim Rumford, a former Castleford academy coach, already having a good relationship with Knights counterpart Gary Thornton.

Said Guildford: “We need to generate more players and support for them and they need to generate better players and support for us. Players should have the best chance to get into the pro arena.

“These amateur clubs are very good at what they do. The game can only benefit if the city has strong amateur clubs like Acorn.

“We need to be professional in our approach. I can understand why they would prefer their young players to go to Leeds or Castleford or Hull – those clubs get £125,000 handouts for their academies, and we don’t get a penny. But we need to offer good quality professional coaching and a good pathway.

“I think this agreement is a massive positive for all concerned. I think we can really move on with this. It’s the first time in a long time something like this has been put in place.

“To have their head coaches – people like Scott – scouting for us is great and likewise we can identify players for them.

“Altogether we will all have a bigger scouting team, a bigger marketing team and a bigger development team by working together and promoting each other. We’re effectively becoming partners.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to achieve the same thing – to win rugby league games and to enjoy doing so.”

The Knights’ friendly against York Select will take place on Sunday, February 16, kick off 3pm.

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