York are hoping some divine intervention and a letter of support from former director general of the BBC Greg Dyke will help get them over the line in their bid to join Super League in 2021.
Dyke, who graduated in politics at the University of York and was its chancellor from 2004-15, has thrown his weight behind the Knights’ cause in his role as chair of Make it York, a body largely responsible for raising investment in the city.
“He’s a highly respectable individual within sport and broadcast circles and to have that professional seal is a huge confidence booster for everybody,” said York chairman Jon Flatman.
Currently in isolation due to the Covid-19, Dyke is due to record a video outlining his support while the club have also been buoyed by the backing via social media of York Minster.
“I was genuinely taken aback by that Tweet but I think it shows the level of support and the unity of the region,” Flatman added.
“We’ve a strong relationship with the Minster, as we have with a lot of the institutions in York.”
We’ve been discussing it here and we think that it would be unfair on the fans of the current @SuperLeague clubs if you didn’t let them have an away day in York at least once a season.
— York Minster (@York_Minster) November 20, 2020
The Knights are hoping the city’s appeal as a major tourism destination – eight million visit every year – will count in their favour and they also point to the new 8,000-capacity LNER Community Stadium, which ironically was due to host some of Toronto’s matches in Super League had they been re-admitted to the competition.
York, promoted as League 1 champions two years ago, are facing competition from Championship rivals Toulouse, London Broncos, Bradford, Featherstone and Leigh, with a decision due to be made by a seven-strong panel by December 16.
But Flatman believes the momentum is behind his club, which has been transformed since he rescued it from possible extinction in December 2016.
“I am absolutely 100% sure there are some fantastic candidates, each of whom would do a tremendous job in Super League but we are excited for this opportunity and we are embracing it,” said Flatman, a sports management consultant who has been virtually full-time at the club during the pandemic.
“We are proud to be a Championship club but, when an opportunity like this comes around, you need to give it everything you’ve got.
“Working hard is something we’re proud of and, if we were lucky enough on December 16th to get nod, then we’re going to have to work even harder.”
It's time to unleash our unrivalled facilities, unbeatable region and unforgettable Knights on @SuperLeague…@MakeItYork | @CityofYork | @YorkStJohn | @Welcome2Yorks | @York_Minster | @VisitYork | @TheRFL | @SkySportsRL
— York City Knights⚔️ (@YorkKnightsRLFC) November 20, 2020
Coach James Ford has already bolstered his squad for 2021 with the addition of experienced Super League players Danny Kirmond, Ryan Atkins, Adam Cuthbertson and Kieran Dixon but Flatman says the club would look to strengthen further if they got the chance to go up.
“We undoubtedly would want to recruit and those discussions are ongoing as we speak,” he said. “We’ve been contacted by several agents in both the UK and Australia.
“There are more players on the market on both sides of the world than normal at this time of the year and we’ve lots of irons in the fire.”
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