Clubs and MPs call for RFL to review Elite Academy decision

Jake Trueman came through the Bradford Bulls academy before signing for Castleford in 2017 shortly before his 18th birthday.

The controversial decision to strip three clubs of Elite Academy status has made its way to Parliament.

East Hull MP Karl Turner has written to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston protesting the decision to remove Hull KR’s licence.

They were one of three clubs – along with Bradford and Castleford – to lose elite status, while a further two (Leigh and Salford) had their new applications refused.

A total of 10 clubs were granted licences for the period of 2022-2027.

Labour MP Turner wrote: “Hull KR are being denied the opportunity to develop their future and thousands of supporters in my constituency of East Hull are rightly furious at this decision.

“Though no substantive feedback from the governing bodies has been provided…the club and fans firmly view the move as favouring one of the city’s clubs over another, as Hull FC have had their application approved, on the supposed basis that Hull and the wider area do not have sufficient young players to maintain two elite academies.

“Hull KR are seeing an urgent independent review… I urge you to support this review.”

All three clubs have cited frustration at the lack of detailed feedback to their application, with the most highlighted point being around their proximity to other clubs and academies.

However, as highlighted by leading rugby league journalist Gareth Walker, the sport operates a salary cap system which rewards clubs who develop their own players.

Meanwhile, Castleford have said they will formally begin a process of challenging the RFL’s decision.

A statement said: “Castleford Tigers continue to be incredibly disappointed with the decision made by the Rugby Football League after submitting what the Club considered to be a strong, in-depth application.

“The process was unfair to clubs with long-standing Academy products still within their club, and still within Super League.

“Castleford Tigers believes that the Club is currently fourth in the table for Super League appearances made by Academy products who are currently playing in Super League, this includes both at the Tigers and at other clubs.

“Castleford Tigers Rugby League Football Club believes that the decision to not award the Club with an Elite Academy Licence from 2022-2027 is detrimental; to the welfare and careers of the 70+ young players, the Club has on its youth programmes currently, to the Tigers’ local community clubs who have players who dream of playing for Castleford Tigers, and to long term planning of homegrown talent playing at our Club.”

Their latest statement has earned the backing of local MP Yvette Cooper.

Bradford issued two statements over the weekend to record their anger at the situation.

Their latest statement read: “Bradford Bulls have still not received a detailed explanation as to why its application (to continue) to run an outstandingly productive Academy, has been rejected.

“While awaiting some feedback the club is reserving its position to use all options to reverse this apparently incomprehensible conclusion.”

Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, is the chair of the All Party Rugby League Parliamentary Group (APPG) and has raised her concerns over the decision.

The MP has written to the RFL asking for an explanation of the decision.

She said: “The approach and the outcome would appear to represent a reduction in opportunity in the community heartlands of the sport and a concentration predominantly in the hands of leading Super League clubs.”

While only 10 have been awarded elite academy status (category 1), including eight from Super League, other clubs are still able to run so-called “development” academies, which have category 2 and 3 status.

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