We shouldn’t help to fund elite Academies says Salford chief

Chairman Paul King says Salford will put aside the disappointment of missing out on a probationary elite Academy licence lifeline and work on a fresh application to run one from 2024.

While Bradford, Castleford and Hull KR have been given two years by the RFL to prove they are worthy of joining Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, London Broncos, Newcastle, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan in operating the game’s highest level of Academy, Leigh and Salford, who also missed out on an elite licence for the 2022-27 period, remain out in the cold.

Both can continue to run lower-level development Academies, and the RFL have said they will work with them to help grow the community game in the areas concerned.

King remains disappointed Salford didn’t make the cut, but says he understands the RFL’s rationale for rethinking their original decision to allow only ten clubs to run elite Academies.

“Given that those three clubs (Bradford, Castleford and Hull KR) already had elite Academies in place, it was always going to be easier for the RFL to ensure they could carry on,” said King.

“I was very proud of our submission. 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.”

King has a warning for his fellow Super League chairmen, however.

“Soon the 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,” he said.

“In effect, Salford would be contributing via a reduction in our distributions to support, for example, Warrington’s elite Academy, and they 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 it’s 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 ten of the twelve 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 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.”

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