Featherstone Rovers have slammed Featherstone Academy for turning their back on their traditional rugby league roots and changing to a rugby union playing school.
Championship side Rovers have given their full support to the campaign to ‘Stop Featherstone Academy from breaking tradition and changing to a Rugby Union playing school’.
The club has been outraged at the Academy’s attempt to make a steady transition away from the sport, which has a long and prestigious history within the town.
A petition to prevent the change has now been created and Rovers have given their full backing to the campaign.
Featherstone Rovers Foundation development officer Paul March: This change is very disappointing when we’ve worked in the school for a number of years delivering their rugby league programme, all free of charge.
“As they are one of only two secondary schools in Featherstone, we wanted to support them as much as we could.
“We have provided elite coaching and kits for them to use and I just can’t understand the decision to cut Rugby League from the curriculum, especially when the pathway to the club’s first team is at its strongest for a long time.
“Children should be given a choice of what they want to play and the removal of that choice is something we cannot support.
“Featherstone Rovers Foundation believe this will have a massive impact on the community, but would like to assure the school that we’re happy to provide them support while rugby league is still on offer.”
March was recently appointed head coach of Featherstone’s new reserve side, which has seen a large volume of players from the local area apply for the open access trial.
Rovers’ general manager Davide Longo has also blasted the school’s actions in switching from rugby league to rugby union in what is a league heartland.
He said: “It’s ridiculous to think that children in Featherstone may not be given the opportunity to play rugby league while they’re at school.
“The sport is the most integral part of the community’s identity.
“It has provided a platform to take working class youngsters from the area and turn them into international superstars.
“Unbelievably, the town of 15,000 people manages to support a semi-professional team and a Women’s Super League team.
“We have also just extended the opportunities on offer to local players, with the formation of a reserves setup.
“That makes this decision from the school even more bizarre. With the training offered by the Featherstone Rovers Foundation their students could carve out future careers in the rugby league.
“Ultimately, this is not just about opportunities though. The argument goes beyond sporting preference, or class.
“This is a matter of identity, values and respect.
“A town’s team cannot lift the Challenge Cup three times and stand by while the town’s children have the opportunity to achieve the same taken away from them.
“The school has a responsibility to provide a full curriculum and that includes giving children the opportunity to play the sport they want.
“The Featherstone Rovers Foundation do a fantastic job of supporting the school at no charge and that will continue while rugby league is still on offer.”
To support the campaign to ‘Stop Featherstone Academy from breaking tradition and changing to a Rugby Union playing School’, click here.
Love Rugby League has approached Featherstone Academy for comment, but we are yet to receive a reply.