Super League clubs ponder Elstone’s future

The twelve Super League clubs have an important decision to make this week, as they try to decide how to handle the fact that their Executive Chairman Robert Elstone handed in his notice last week.

The message was communicated to the media in a brief email, which said, “Super League can confirm that it has received notice of Executive Chairman, Robert Elstone’s, intention to leave his position. The matter will be discussed by the Super League Board and no further comment will be made at this time.”

The matter was discussed by the Super League directors on Friday, but there was general confusion because the majority of them appear not to have seen Elstone’s employment contract, despite him already having been in post for almost three years, while the directors of a company are legally responsible for all the company’s actions and should in theory have access to all the company’s important documents.

The contract was drawn up at the time of Elstone’s appointment by the then Hull Kingston Rovers Chairman Neil Hudgell, who was also at that time a director of Super League.

League Express understands that it was then signed for Super League by Hudgell and Wigan Chairman Ian Lenagan, with Hudgell’s resignation from the board last year removing one of only two directors who had seen the contract.

Although some reports suggested that Elstone had resigned his post last week, the reality is that the Super League press release indicates that he has handed in his notice. The clubs appear not to be sure how long his notice period is, and Lenagan suggested at Friday’s meeting that he couldn’t remember the details of the contract and, by implication, the notice period, although League Express understands it is a twelve-month notice period.

The clubs appointed Huddersfield Giants Chairman Ken Davy and Wakefield Trinity Chairman John Minards to investigate the details of Elstone’s contract and to report back to the other directors, while Lenagan appeared to suggest that he would be happy to see Elstone continuing to work for a considerable part of his notice period.

Meanwhile League Express has discovered that when Super League sought private equity finance last year, it did so in direct conflict with a report written for the Super League clubs by a strategic working group led by Ken Davy.

The search for private equity funding was christened ‘Project Harry’, and the following section appeared in the report.

“In respect of Project Harry, it is important to note that we are advised by Rothschild’s that an investor would require unanimity from the SL Clubs prior to their getting involved.

The SWG is however aware that at least one SL Club is not prepared to support Project Harry without a restructure having first taken place. KD has advised the Project Harry Steering Group of this, however the parties have pressed ahead regardless. It could be argued that this has given SL Clubs an incorrect impression, as regards the ability to deliver Project Harry.”

It is widely known that the club that was adamantly opposed to private equity investment was St Helens, who also voted against the appointment of Rothschild’s as the broker for securing private equity, under their Chairman Eamonn McManus, whose career has been largely based in the field of finance and financial markets.

Ultimately, as revealed by League Express several weeks ago, the decision to go ahead in spite of that warning has cost the Super League clubs £750,000 between them.
Whether that will impact on the agreement the Super League clubs try to reach on Elstone’s departure from his role remains to be seen.

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