Dave Craven: York was never a stronghold, but the city deserves a team

York City Knights player coach James Ford
York City Knights player coach James Ford
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IT HAS always seemed strange that York – such a prestigious, historic and significant city – has traditionally never had a truly great professional rugby league side.

Granted, given its North Yorkshire status, it has not got the usual M62 pulling power of many of the more famous clubs and, to that effect, has had reason to struggle, just like those 
sides in the south of the Broad Acres, too.

Nevertheless, given its proximity to Castleford, Leeds and the like and some decent amateur clubs in its time plus the business acumen housed in a city of such size, it is surprising a really strong foothold has never been created.

It would be criminal, however, to think – having originated in 1868 – there is no presence whatsoever and that is why, even if the outlook remains opaque, it is vital that the current incarnation is now able to fulfil its 2016 fixtures in League 1.

What lies beyond that, who knows, but there is a chance to keep professional rugby league in the city and everything needs to be done to enable that to 
happen.

There has, of course, been some anxious times over the last week or so after John Guildford, the club’s owner, revealed he was closing York City Knights down with immediate effect.

When last Sunday’s Super 8s opener at home to Doncaster was called off due to Bootham Crescent – York City’s ground and the nomadic Knights current abode – being unavailable, it led to the board pulling the plug.

In their eyes, there was no sustainable way of continuing to run the club while they remained without a home of their own, blighted by groundshare issues since departing Huntington Stadium in 2014 and having failed to become involved in the new planned community stadium on the same site.

There was no gentle, gradual removal from competitive play; York were done, over and out.

However, thankfully, they are alive still and right now they are in France, ready – if you can describe it as that after the 
chaos of recent days – to play Toulouse tonight, the League 1 leaders who are unbeaten all season.

Respect needs to be given to head coach James Ford and his players who, let’s not forget, were told nine days ago they would be made free agents, but stayed together determined to do 
what they could if there was a reprieve.

They travelled down to Gatwick Airport yesterday ready to board a flight to the south of France but are severely depleted given the fact many players cannot get time off work for the time-consuming trip.

Toulouse are full-time and have won 14 of their 15 league games, drawing the other, so they remain a formidable opponent.

However, while Guildford looks to complete a deal with interested parties – and he has now pledged to see them though until the end of the season 
while that is done – York’s players are keeping the club’s name 
alive.

It is imperative that when, or if, a new owner is found, that all those involved, including the council and private investors, learn to work together to create a long-term solution for the sport in the city.

There has been complications galore previously between those seeking to do that, with York finding themselves playing at amateur club Heworth last season as their quest for a new home stalled, but there is clearly a chance for fresh starts and solutions in the offing.

Let’s hope they can be 
grasped: and York, as a rugby league city, can reach its full potential.