Former Harrogate RU duo Ralph Zoing and Adam Pearson joining forces again to secure future of Hull FC

THEY played together for Harrogate rugby union club alongside future Ireland internationals Simon and Guy Easterby but Ralph Zoing has now switched codes to link up once more with Adam Pearson to try and take Hull FC to new heights.

Co-owner of Harrogate Wealth Management and with more than 30 years experience in the financial services industry, Zoing came on board at the Super League club as a non-executive director last year.

Previously, he was coach of Harrogate for one of the club’s most successful periods before finishing in 2005, and had earlier forged his own playing career at Claro Road.

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It was there that Zoing first met Pearson, the owner of Hull FC who has also owned Hull City, been executive chairman at Derby County and, initially, worked as commercial director of Leeds United.

“Adam was a very good player,” recalled Zoing, in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post.

“He played semi-professional rugby union at tier three.

“He was a very good outside centre or inside centre at times.

“I was inside him at fly-half. He’d probably say to you he didn’t get the ball enough off me!

Ralph Zoing: In his days as head coach at Harrogate RUFC.

“But he’s a character, inspirational, a team builder who gets people on board. His enthusiasm is infectious.

“I’ve been mates with Adam for more than 30 years and our association goes back a long way.

“I have every faith in his ability in the sporting arena to make a success of Hull.”

Pearson, 56, took control of Hull in 2011 and has invested plenty of his own money into making them one of the most competitive clubs in Super League.

Adam Pearson: Teamed up again with Ralph Zoing. Picture: SWPix

They famously won at Wembley for the first time in their history when lifting the Challenge Cup in 2016, heading back to retain the trophy 12 months later.

Granted, the Black and Whites have still yet to conquer Super League, falling at the semi-final stage last year, and have not won a championship since 1983.

They will aim to do that in 2021 but, clearly, staying afloat is the main issue for them and all clubs as they deal with the ongoing fall-out from the pandemic.

Zoing explained: “The club was in a really, really good position prior to Covid, as I’m sure many other rugby league clubs were.

Harrogate's Ralph Zoing is tackled and falls just short of Otley's try line during his rugby union playing days.

“But, through no fault of their own, along with other clubs they now find themselves struggling to stay alive.

“It was after the Covid outbreak that Adam asked me to come on board. I admire what Adam has done in the sporting world; he’s a really shrewd operator and great at building teams.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to get quite close to what he’s doing at Hull. Adam has been trying to add a bit more diversity in terms of the board and beefing up the board to have people who are not necessarily from within rugby league but maybe have a wider experience.

“He just asked if I’d be happy to get involved. From a sporting perspective, I have got a union background. But I think it’s more on the financial side of things where I may be more of a help given my financial experience.”

Zoing’s monetary expertise should offer Pearson a vital sounding board in the years ahead.

As Super League continues to battle to secure a suitable new broadcast deal for after this year, and contemplates private equity options, the future remains opaque.

Adam Pearson, left, and Ralph Zoing, centre, in their Harrogate RUFC days.

But Zoing, 55, added: “If anything, it (Covid) has given sporting clubs the opportunity to take a good, long hard look at themselves and see how they can improve. One of the things I’ve admired about Adam over the years is that he’s always been willing to be self-reflective and looking at himself to see if any errors can be improved on.

“He’s identified that as being an area. Rugby league is a tough gig. Rugby union look as though they have renegotiated with BT Sport.

“With league, the government was the first out of the blocks to help out and provide support through the pandemic.

“But in terms of the brand, and selling the rights to TV, it seems to be a difficult sell at the minute.”

Pearson, who has also appointed Hull solicitor Gordon Sewell to the board as a legal advisor, was always destined to succeed in the sporting world, according to former Leeds Tykes player Zoing. He said: “I think it was ’89-90 when we first played together. Adam came up from Ealing where he’d played first-team rugby.

“He came back to Harrogate having played Yorkshire Schoolboys and knew some of the boys from his QEGS days.

“He played quite a bit of second team rugby but a lot of first team as well. To be fair, though, rugby took a bit of a back seat for him when he went to Leeds United.

“Even then, as a young lad, he was focused on his rugby but always focused on business and you could see he was going to go somewhere. It’s great to see what he has done.

“I don’t think there are many people who have a success record like he has and for as long as he has in professional sport. He’s a top achiever.

“But you could see that was going to happen. Obviously, he couldn’t do that and play rugby at a very high level. I don’t think anyone was surprised he went off to Leeds United and concentrated on his career.”

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