I wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s AGM due to working at London v Warrington - although I have obviously heard various events of what happened - and the aim of this post absolutely isn’t to get drawn into that, and add any more fuel to the fire. At the same time I can completely understand the emotions involved.
Instead it an attempt to try and look for a way forward for everybody connected to Rochdale Hornets.
What Hornets will need over the next two years perhaps more than at any point in its history is unity. The end of the current TV deal following the 2021 season presents great uncertainty for all professional rugby league clubs, but particularly those that will be outside Super League. The worst case scenario is that central funding will end altogether for those clubs, which will put the future of many in doubt overnight. The well-run clubs will be the ones best prepared for that possibility. In addition, the re-introduction of mandatory reserve teams for Super League clubs next season will, I expect, see the use of dual registration scaled back significantly across the board, because those clubs will have three teams to fill every weekend including their academy sides.
I was on the temporary board put together prior to the weekend’s AGM, and put my hand up at that meeting back in April because I fully understand how important a period this is and wanted to help. I found out literally within 24 hours that the conflicts in interest with my work meant that I couldn’t stand for the board permanently, but I have offered to help out on a number of fronts moving forward even though I can’t be a director.
Ever since my first match back at the Athletic Grounds in 1985, through to this weekend, I’ve regularly heard “I’m not going to Hornets while so-and-so is involved” or “that’s me done with the club until…”. We have to find a way to get away from that. There aren’t enough people that are passionate about rugby league in Rochdale for us to be divided. All sorts of things have gone on in the past but we’ll have no benefit in going over those, some of which are many years ago.
What also has to stop is a notion I see regularly that there are just a select few that really have the club’s best interests at heart, and anyone else standing for the board is in it for themselves. That is wholly untrue and disrespectful both to the new board and all those that have served on it in past years, both before and after the club became supporter-owned. I know the majority of the new board personally and they are absolutely in this to make Rochdale Hornets a better club. I’ve had the tiniest of insights into the amount of time needed to be a director of the club over the last two and a half months, and there isn’t anybody making that huge commitment purely for their own personal gain, it’s a ridiculous notion.
Personally I’m full of respect for all past and present directors of the club for taking on that commitment and responsibility. I’ve never understood the kind of reverse snobbery that I’ve also regularly seen about people who put significant amounts of their own money into Rochdale Hornets in past years. Equally, people that volunteer hours of their own time for Hornets deserve a massive amount of respect (and more credit publicly, which is one of the things I’ve suggested the club should do). The current model of the club has given it some of the best days in its history. The reality is that the club has always needed both of those groups of people, and always will moving forward.
What I would hate to see happen is that the weekend’s events irreparably splits the club in half, because then its existence absolutely is under threat. I believe that there are people on both sides of that willing to find a way to move forward together and I hope that happens. Equally, I would be more than willing to act as a mediator if people want to sit down and work it out, and think I have a pretty balanced view of most things. I’ll sit down with anybody to talk about the future of the club.
What is encouraging is that there are several things going for Rochdale Hornets now that haven’t been there in the past. The outstanding work of the Foundation in local schools and the community is something that was never there when I was growing up. The club has Ladies and wheelchair teams. There are hopefully moves to restore a strong link with the Past Players’ Association, something that I’ve seen have hugely beneficial effects at other similar sized clubs. There are more Rochdale-born lads playing professional rugby league at the moment than at any one point in my lifetime (it’s possible to make a full 17 and still have players left). That of course is down to the outstanding development work of Rochdale Mayfield, one of the best amateur clubs in the country at present. A strong relationship with them would be the envy of many of Hornets’ rivals, and would hopefully benefit both clubs. And in Matt Calland, Dave Larder and Martin Hall, the club has three people with experience of success at Championship level that I think is unrivalled anywhere else, with the added bonus of them all being former players who clearly care.
But it needs the club to find a way to become fully united to make the most of all of this - directors, supporters, sponsors, past players, local amateur clubs, everybody. No more anti this individual or that individual (on any side), no more anti-Mayfield because of past events, no more “old and new club”.
It’s Rochdale Hornets, and hopefully will be for many years to come.