Salford Chairman attacks conflict of interest in Super League

SALFORD RED DEVILS Chairman Paul King has confirmed that his club will put aside its disappointment at being left out of the RFL’s awarding of Elite Academy status to three further clubs – Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Hull Kingston Rovers – on Friday and it will continue with its player pathway plan to enable it to apply again for an Elite licence in 2024.

King admits he was disappointed not to make the cut, but he understands the RFL’s rationale for appearing to go back on its decision a week earlier, when it announced that only ten clubs would be recognised as having Elite Academies.

“Given that those three clubs already had Academies in place, it was always going to be easier for the RFL to ensure they could carry on, rather than giving us an Elite licence,” said King.

“I was very proud of our submission (for a licence); the team worked incredibly hard on it and we were told that in terms of submission quality, we were next in line.

“But the problem for us is that the previous owner of our club closed down our Elite Academy in 2017 and that clearly put us at a disadvantage when applying to set it up again.

“Nonetheless, the RFL has said it will give us plenty of help with our player development pathway and I’ll be very interested in seeing what that entails.”

But the Salford Chairman does have a warning for his fellow Chairmen of Super League clubs.

“Soon the Super League clubs will be deciding whether to fund the Elite Academies from the new broadcasting deal and I fear the majority may go down the route of self-interest again.

“In effect Salford would be contributing via a reduction in our distributions to support, for example, Warrington’s Elite Academy, who will then continue to freely wander around Salford’s community clubs picking off the talent.

“Clubs already receive cap dispensation for producing academy players at Super League level. Without an Elite Academy we will not be able to generate further dispensations once our current crop, such as Sneyd, Fages, Ratchford, Turner, Evalds and Gee retire or move out of the top flight. It feels like a double hammer blow and any reasonable independent person would agree its unfair.

“It’s a classic case of the rich getting richer and the little guy gets shafted, but I just cannot accept that level of imbalance and may well have no option other than to take legal action to secure Salford’s distributions aren’t picked apart by our wealthier rivals.

“To have the clubs themselves casting votes on this issue when 10 of the 12 have been awarded Elite Academies is nonsensical; it’s such a clear conflict of interest and we shouldn’t be tolerating it as a sport. We need an urgent review of the way Super League (Europe) is governed, not just on this matter, though it is fairly typical. We just shouldn’t be voting on matters where there is a clear conflict of interest.”