Championship Focus: York City Knights digging deep to create firm foundations in the Minster City

York City Knights’ new owner is digging deep to create firm foundations for continued development and to ensure an old problem for a professional Rugby League club in the Minster City doesn’t resurface.

It was back in January when Australian Clint Goodchild bought the Knights from Jon Flatman, who was part of a consortium that brought the club back from the brink of extinction in late 2016 and turned them into one of the strongest outside the top flight.

A Super League berth is the stated target for the ambitious and progressive Knights, who, having been homeless for a spell in 2015 before they began ground sharing with York City at Bootham Crescent, last year moved into the new 8,500-capacity LNER Stadium alongside the football club.

But it’s not just a case of getting there, which is difficult enough given that only one team wins promotion from the Championship, because should they manage that, York, who came up from League One in 2018, want to be in a position, both on and off the pitch, to stay at the highest level.

That, of course, proved beyond London Broncos, who made the jump in 2018, Toronto Wolfpack (2019) and Leigh Centurions (2020), while last year’s Million Pound Game winners Toulouse Olympique are currently four points adrift at the foot of Super League and facing a real battle for survival.

And a delve into the record books shows that the original York club, which collapsed in 2002, won four promotions to the top flight – in 1973/74, 1978/79, 1980/81, when Wigan were beaten to the Second Division title, and 1984/85 – and each time were relegated the following season.

Goodchild, from Western Queensland, has kept a relatively low profile since being introduced to Knights fans as a business management and operations expert across multiple industries.

But he recently revealed that his early focus has been on further strengthening the income streams and community links of the club, which runs a competitive women’s team and have a long-term plan to start an Academy.

“The commercial division is the lifeblood of all sports clubs,” he told local newspaper The Press.

“We’ve hired three people full-time, one focused on events and two on maintaining and building our relationships in the community with businesses and not-for-profits. I’m hoping that bears fruit in the coming months.

“The sustainability of the club has got to be the number one priority. It’s about making sure the business is very secure.”

With eight wins from ten, the most recent 30-18 at Barrow in front of the Premier Sports cameras last Monday, York are third in the Championship behind Featherstone Rovers and Leigh, the only teams to have beaten them in the league this season.

James Ford’s side, which still has away games against the big-spending leading pair to come, clearly have their work cut out to earn promotion this year.

But it’s hard to disagree with Goodchild, who added: “I think this team has incredible potential.

“Whether it is this year or next year, I’m pretty sure it will be reached.”

For Ford, the club’s coach since 2015, who says he’s fully aligned with Goodchild, it’s a case of taking each game as it comes and trying to get the most out of the players at his disposal, whether that’s best utilising the experience of Chris Clarkson, Danny Kirmond and Jordan Thompson or developing young talents like Myles Harrison, AJ Towse and Brad Ward.

“Featherstone and Leigh are bringing in some eye-catching players, which is fantastic for the competition and the game,” he said.

“But historically, I’ve not seen that much long-term success from chucking money at it.

“Our strategy is different. We’re trying to develop young players from the area, grow and develop the team that way.”

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