Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sunday's Coming Special: Featherstone Rovers

Think back to January, just before the season started...

London Broncos' future was in doubt, their lease on the Stoop had expired and eight players had baled out ahead of their anticipated implosion. The RFL's back-up plan - if the Broncos folded - was to run with a 13-team Super League. But cometh someone else's darkest hour, cometh the man. In this case Featherstone's majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo.

With great fanfare, he announced to the Rugby league world that Fev would ride over the ridge and 'save' Super League by 'offering' to take the vacant 14th place.

"Whilst not ideal, we can be ready to mix with the greats of rugby league." he said in a club statement at the time.

"We certainly deserve it... and it would be farcical if space became available and we weren't offered entry. The sport is starved of funds and we've made it clear we have the funds available to build Featherstone Rovers into a rugby league powerhouse and we should be encouraged, not discouraged."
Featherstone's very own Feisal Nahaboo shows his support

"We own our ground, we have a strong board with at least two key shareholders generating seven-figure profits from businesses they run successfully and own. It all bodes well for Featherstone Rovers to show that entrepreneurs can enter the sport of rugby league and commercialise the game and attract investment."

"Roman Abramovich started this in football and now the money in football has gone crazy. Rugby league is ready for entrepreneurs. We've seen Dr Marwan Koukash take on Salford City Reds and I'm sure he will show his value to the sport next year. I'm no different…"

Fast forward six months
Only a week after announcing plans to sign pretty much every off-contract player in Super League, and mere days after signing Jarrod Sammut on Dual Reg. (in direct contradiction of the club's vociferous opposition to the Dual Reg. system) it looks like the shit has hit the fan(s) at Post Office Road, with majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo and CEO Craig Poskitt having walked from the club after what looks like an irreconcilable fall-out with Chairman Mark Campbell.

Nahaboo not Happy
Having pumped - in his own words - "hundreds of thousands" into the club - which included offering full time, extended contracts to key players and chasing several big-name Super League players including Danny Brough, Leon Price, Michael Monaghan and Eorl Crabtree, you have to wonder how the financial demands of such huge ambition will play-out now the money plug has been pulled.

Nahaboo bankrolled the club for 3 years as a sponsor, investor and majority shareholder - pouring in critical funds to build what looked like a viable Super League challenge, but over the course of last weekend, the story of the rift slowly oozed out via Twitter, with @fnahaboo75 tweeting (sic):

- "Very sad, very upset, revolving door again...same issues same people. Time to go. Very hard to leave when in love"

- "A lot of free time now to play golf.Will miss the lads.I know they backed what was happening & we would have got into SL.We had just started"

- "Immense support from players/directors/officials 2day.spent hundreds of thousands with fev.Someone won't let go.Hurting others.mass exodus"

- "Chairman & I agree a joint statement hopefully for 2moro.We both want best for club/fans.Fans need truth.Players know who was paying them!"

- "No interest in land.Multimillionaire half retired building houses in Fev! Come on!!Hundreds of A shareholders control land!Challenge was SL"

The club's own Twitter account has been particularly taciturn on the matter - a single Tweet referring readers to its official statement.

Exit Signs
In a stream of consciousness press release that makes Hunter S Thompson look like a model of linear narrative, Rovers dropped heavy hints about what exactly had gone shit-shaped at the club. It said: " With immediate effect majority shareholder Feisal Nahaboo has announced to officials that he will no longer invest in Featherstone Rovers following undisclosed disagreements…"

But it does suggest a rift between Nahaboo and club Chairman Mark Campbell: Nahaboo quoted as saying "… (I) believe Mark Campbell is the man to lead Fev. I did my bit, the fans are with him understandably, so walking… was the only way.

In reply Campbell said: "Big personalities who have built big businesses sometimes don't agree with slow growth and old habits and its normal to have differences but Nahaboo is obviously offended…"

Interestingly, CEO Poskitt's exit is tucked away in the last paragraph, Campbell saying: "I'd also like to thank Craig in his time at Fev as we've seen revenues grow across the business year on year and wish him well in the future…"

All very odd. But if you invite a money-man in at the top - especially one who has already flirted with several clubs -  they're going to want control. But control comes at a price - and when supporters feel disenfranchised, the disconnect can be too great to bridge and something has to give (messages on Fev's fans forum are making heavy noises about 'getting our club back'). And that's the crux of the sugar-daddy model: while Big-Time Charlies can spit the dummy and pull the plug, the fans have a lifetime investment. And the one thing that money can't buy is lifetime loyalty.

Read the full statement here: http://www.featherstonerovers.net/article.php?id=13080

Meanwhile, back in the Championship...
Having lost the previous week up at Workington, normal service was resumed last week as  Fev battered 'Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™' by 58-8. Dual Reg. signing Jarrod Sammut, bagging 10 from 10 with the boot.

Whether he - or any of the newly full-time contracted players - hang around remains to be seen.

We maintain a watching brief.