THINGS might be looking good on the field for York City Knights, but the club have had not such a grand time off it.
Last week’s Challenge Cup third round win at Gateshead actually made a LOSS, and while the club were then handed a fourth-round tie at home to Super League club Crusaders, the financial success of that will almost certainly boil down to how the York public get behind it.
And they will certainly have to get behind it better than they did for the Northern Rail Cup win over London on Wednesday.
The current economic climate also means getting sponsorship in hasn’t been easy. And, on top of all that, The Press believes any potential takeover deal, as mooted last year, has now collapsed, leaving majority shareholder John Guildford, who’d said he wanted out, keeping hold of the reins for the foreseeable future.
For Challenge Cup ties, all match-day profits are shared between the two clubs. But, if there are no profits then the losses are also shared.
And for Gatshead v York, only 336 people turned up, most of them getting in free due to the fact season ticket holders can get attend their club’s first Challenge Cup tie of the year for nothing.
Costs, therefore, outweighed revenues. Indeed, The Press understands that York’s share of gate receipts, after the usual costs were taken out, amounted to a whopping £119, out of which the club had to find winning pay for the players. Hardly a case of “to the victor the spoils”.
Indeed, it’s a situation which brings into question the idea of letting season ticket holders into the match for free. The motives are fine – the Rugby Football League want to halt the trend of diminishing crowds for cup ties, and it seems an okay idea for televised games that showcase the sport. But is it financially viable for all ties?
The fact Crusaders fans will be able to get into the next tie for free, given this is the stage Super League clubs enter the competition, means they, too, won’t contribute to York’s match-day receipts. The new Welsh outfit aren’t particularly known for a large travelling support anyway.
That means whatever money is made from that tie will come from sponsorship and the York public.
And, to be fair, the York public are a funny bunch, as shown by the fact only 439 of them turned up on Wednesday, when victory assured the team of progression to the Northern Rail quarter-finals.
The RFL do give appearance fees for Challenge Cup ties so that might cover some loss for York, but they do not hand out participation fees or prize-money for progression in the Northern Rail Cup, only for winning the competition outright. Again, therefore, York’s win comes at a cost.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that some clubs don’t go all out for victory in some Northern Rail Cup ties, as inferred from various team selections?
Just look at Hunslet. They fielded largely a reserve side against Featherstone and got heavily beaten. But then, if they’d won, they would have had to fork out winning pay and we all know they’ve already forked out on players in a bid for promotion in the league. A weakened team and a defeat on the field therefore makes for a financial fillip off it – and more money saved for the league campaign.
It’s probably fair to say the Knights didn’t budget for a particularly big crowd against the London minnows.
But it’s a fair guess that if crowds and income stays low, then the Knights under Guildford would cut outgoings accordingly – which isn’t wrong but isn’t an exciting prospect either.
Two simple solutions to help clubs would be for the RFL to offer prize-money for progression in the Northern Rail Cup, and also to revert back to having groups divided by location, thus giving clubs derby games.
In York’s case, they used to get big crowds against the likes of Castleford, Hull KR and Featherstone; recently they’ve had small gates against far-flung clubs like London and Workington.
Another idea is to run the Northern Rail Cup intermittently through the league season, so it cannot be used by some as an extended pre-season.
But in the meantime, the Knights have to continue running the club as a business and, under Guildford, that has always meant paying only what they can afford.
That should still leave the Knights in a healthier position than many rivals in the long-term, especially off the pitch. Keighley, Gateshead and Doncaster have all recently suffered financially having spent more than they can afford, and the chances are that a couple more clubs will follow suit.
But, on the pitch, it potentially leaves an unfair playing field if some clubs, by whatever means, including ones which perhaps elude the salary cap, pay more than attendances suggest they can afford. Like Keighley, Gateshead and Doncaster did en route to promotion.
So how does the situation improve? Who knows, but assuming the RFL don’t police the salary cap better, the best solution for the Knights would be for fans to turn up in droves again and prove that winning matches – including those costly cup ties – pays dividends.
THE Knights Supporters’ Club coach to Workington tomorrow will leave the Ainsty at 10am, Clarence Street at 10.15am and Huntington Stadium at 10.30am.
Price is £19 for adults, £10 for under-16s and £6 for travel club members. To book, phone 07958 569266.
TICKETS are available for ‘A Knight at the Races’ to be held in Bar 13 a week today. The price is £5, which includes a chicken and chips supper.
Points machine Waterman sits proudly on the top table
IT’S as if the two of them are trying to outdo each other. Big Brett Waller picked up his Press Player of the Month award on Wednesday night and then watched as his mate and former Skirlaugh ARLC colleague Lee Waterman went to the summit of the Championships’ points-scoring charts – and leapfrogged him to the top of the Northern Rail/Press Player of the Year standings.
As reported on today’s back page, centre Waterman’s 14-point haul from a try and five goals in the midweek win over London saw him join Widnes’ Shane Grady at the top of the league’s points-scoring table, Grady having had the advantage of a 64-12 win for the Vikings over amateurs Wigan St Jude’s on Tuesday.
Waterman also went joint-top of the try-scoring table, though Batley’s Johnny Campbell went clear 24 hours later with two tries in their Championship defeat by Haifax.
Waterman’s exploits have been praised by caretaker-boss Chris Thorman – as on the back page – but it’s fair to say the Knights’ coaching team of Thorman, Mick Ramsden and suspended head coach James Ratcliffe deserve praise, too, for switching him to the three-quarters, a position he had not previously held.
Thorman reckoned Waterman was good around the squad too – especially when he stops talking.
He joked: “He listens to the coaches, which is a good thing. Well, he does when he closes his mouth. You can always hear an East Yorkshire accent in training and nine times out of ten it’s Lee’s.
“But he’s more than willing to listen and learn and, if that continues and if he continues to apply himself, he has a big future.
“He’s a character, but he gets on with the boys and he’s good for the squad.”
Waterman got three Player of the Year points for being man of the match on Wednesday. Other points winners that night were Casey Bromilow (2) and Luke Hardbottle (1), who had his best game to date.
Northern Rail/Press Player of the Year standings: Waterman 10pts, Waller 7, Ross 5, Thorman 5, Blakeway 3, Freer 2, Reittie 2, Bromilow 2, McLocklan 1, Applegarth 1, Hardbottle 1.
FORMER Knight Gareth Moore rose up the league’s points table when equalling a Batley match record with 30 in the 70-6 defeat of Leeds Met University in the Challenge Cup third round. The scrum-half scored two tries and 11 goals to match Simon Wilson’s 30 points from a try and 13 goals against Leigh in 1995.
TWO Knights, Jy-Mel Coleman and Chris Clarke, were in the Leeds Met side that day.
Coleman was also called up for the Knights’ squad to take on London Skolars in midweek – but failed to show.
According to caretaker-boss Chris Thorman, Coleman would have debuted at half-back, but there was a “breakdown in communication” and instead he went training with the university.
Apparently, as far as Thorman’s concerned, that’s the matter closed, but, unfortunately for young Coleman, he might not get many more opportunities to break into the first team given the form of Thorman, Casey Bromilow and Jonny Schofield.
Championships clubs (all matches) Tries: Johnny Campbell (Batley) 11, Lee Waterman (York), 9, Shad Royston (Halifax) 8, Dave Alstead (Leigh) 7.
Goals: Lee Patterson (Halifax) 34, Gareth Moore (Batley) 33, Shane Grady (Widnes) 30, Jamie Rooney (Barrow) 29, Matt Ashe (Oldham) 25, Lee Waterman 24, Wayne McHugh (Hunslet) 21.
Points: Lee Waterman (York) 84, Shane Grady (Widnes) 84, Gareth Moore (Batley) 78, Lee Patterson (Halifax) 72, Jamie Rooney (Barrow) 70, Wayne McHugh (Hunslet) 66.