Hull KR launch legal action against RFL over refusal of elite academy licence

Hull Kingston Rovers have launched legal proceedings against the Rugby Football League over the governing body’s decision not to award the Super League club an elite academy licence, a decision they believe leaves hundreds of youngsters in the city facing an uncertain future in the sport.

The RFL revealed last week that only 10 clubs would be awarded licences to continue operating an academy from 2022 to 2027, with the Robins one of three no longer eligible for elite status alongside Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls.

Rovers have now formally challenged that decision with the independent body Sports Resolutions. A ruling is expected by the middle of next month with the Super League club, who want the decision to be overturned, keen for a speedy outcome. Hull KR are concerned about stress on the mental wellbeing of the players and staff in the club’s academy setup.

The RFL said: “We understand that there is an impact on the players and coaches currently at the clubs that were not awarded a licence. From a welfare perspective, our partner charity, Rugby League Cares, is working with those clubs impacted to offer support.

“In addition we are seeking to work with the clubs to discuss the many options available to the players for the 2022 season and beyond. These options may include the potential for the impacted players to remain at the current clubs for a transitional year and work with the RFL to create a development academy.”

The potential impact on the community game was cited as a reason for the RFL’s decision to cut the number of elite academies, but Rovers officials told the Observer they are confident they would be backed by local amateur clubs over their legal challenge and that at youth level the numbers playing rugby league have been increasing in recent years.

Rovers said in a brief statement: “The club would like to thank the community game in Hull for its overwhelming support. Aside from the appeal, our focus at the present time is on supporting our young people.”

Castleford and Bradford may follow suit and challenge the decision with Sport Resolutions in the coming days.

“It is the role of governing body to make tough decisions in the best interests of the sport,” the RFL said. “We believe this was a difficult but necessary process to improve the game’s elite player development programme, with necessary consideration for the health of the community game.”