Monday, 1 June 2015

So what IS going on at York?

By far the most frequent question we’ve been asked in the last few days is: “What the bloody ‘ell’s going on at York?”  Clearly having no match details confirmed less than a week before our game is a bit disconcerting, so we thought we’d try and find out.

We scoured the York Press, Yorkshire Post and the RL press for news and updates to try and find out just what IS going on at York City Knights.  We can’t lie - it was like lifting the lid on a veritable Pandora’s Box of argument, counter-argument, hubris, ego and confusion.

We can say that the situation centres on a messy, long-running and controversial falling out that involves York City Knights, York City FC and the City of York Council, whch has left Knights coach James Ford's side with neither a ground or training base for the past six months.

Our best interpretation of the situation is:

- The Knights moved out of Huntington Stadium so it could be redeveloped as an 8,000-seater venue for both York’s RL and football clubs. City of York Council offered them terms for tenancy within the new community stadium project and interim arrangements to train at York St John University’s and play at York City’s Bootham Crescent
John Guildford - Shades of intransigence

- There was a failure to reach agreement on terms following a major fall-out between the council and club owner John Guildford. The City of York Council blamed Guildford for the breakdown in talks: Guildford blamed the council, saying that the deal on the new stadium had been unviable, despite assurances the club would be no worse off.

- City of York Council refused to deal with Guildford any further and elected to proceed with the community stadium development without the rugby league club’s involvement. Exclusion from negotiations on the project meant that the temporary arrangements for the club were also scrapped, hence, the lack of a venue for playing or training.

- City of York Council said “The Council remains strongly committed to the success of professional rugby league in York and the use of the stadium for both rugby league and football. It is with deep regret that the Council finds that it no longer has confidence in the working relationship with Mr Guildford so is unable to enter back into negotiations with him on the Community Stadium development…” Reading between the lines, the statement suggsts that a change of ownership would help re-open negotiations.

-  In February, Guildford stepped down as club chairman at the request of City of York Council. A new board was brought in earlier this year to take over stadium negotiations from Guildford after the council said it would not work with him again. But Guildford remains as majority shareholder.

-  In April, York fans sent a petition to the Rugby Football League asking for their “assistance to enable the removal of John Guildford from York City Knights”.  It had over 1,000 signatories - four times the attendance of their last ‘home’ game. Guildford’s response directed at Gary and Andy Hall, two club sponsors involved in the petition was: "Please help stop these 2 big girls blouses bullying me, they also have a serious crush on me now. Ha. The fat one even loves handing photos of me out all day, the other knob sits all day on social media posting under different names and pretends hes me (sic), and the third one is in the background as the mouth but won't meet anyone without a minder or his mam with him to hold his hand… Window lickers. Lol.”

- In a final oddball twist, the Knights Independent Supporters Club called for Guildford to cede ownership of the club, asking York City's owner Jason McGill to usurp him - but  McGill announced that they will not deal with the City Knights unless it changes ownership. This led to Guildford claiming in the local press that the council want him to sell the rugby league club to  the owner of York City FC. York City have since said that such a takeover won’t happen.

- The latest report we’ve seen is from the 22nd May says that “Hopes that York City Knights are to be brought back into the community stadium project have been boosted after the club declared that ‘positive news will be in the public domain very soon’.

But let’s face it - it could hardly get any more negative.

Having picked the bones out of that mess, York RUFC's Clifton Park has hosted two Knights home games so far this season but the club needed special dispensation from the Rugby Football League to play there as it did not meet league standards. York’s last home fixture against South Wales Scorpions was played 31 miles from York at Featherstone Rovers' Big Fellas Stadium.

A statement from the Knights said: "The club was trying all it could to have this fixture played at Bootham Crescent but several issues including the need for a revised safety certificate have prevented Bootham Crescent being available.”

Clifton Park isn’t available this week as it’s hosting a cricket match.

All up, it’s a bloody mess and one that needs addressing ASAP if York are to salvage any credibility within the game.