Hull FC and Hull KR are to risk the wrath of their fans by casting aside their fierce rivalry to merge their youth development systems.
In a controversial move, the Super League clubs are to combine their academies from 2016 at a new set-up based at Bishop Burton College, the home of Hull City’s academy.
The clubs have yet to come up with a name for the under-16 and under-19s teams but have agreed they will play in the neutral colours of yellow and blue while progress to the first teams will be determined by a draft system.
Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell said: “I’m sure this decision will divide opinion but I am confident that when supporters find out more about the joint academy, they will understand the reasons why we have made this move and the benefits it will bring to all parties.
“It is in no way, shape or form a pre-cursor to a full merger between the clubs. We have always been outspoken about the pride, passion, history and rivalry that exists between the two sides and that will never change.
“I’m a fifth-generation Rovers fan and I cannot ever see the day when there is only one rugby league club in Hull. It’s certainly not going to happen on my watch.
“That rivalry will be maintained at senior level and it will be a case of business as usual for the first team.”
Hull FC owner Adam Pearson said: “We are extremely proud of our academy set-up....but we have to recognise when the time is right for development and growth.
“We often shout about Hull as a hotbed of rugby league talent, a founding home for the sport, but the harsh reality is that the talent pool is smaller than it once was.
“The base cost of running successful academies of this nature is growing and the opportunity to spend quality and focused development time with our young athletes faces numerous challenges.
“To develop an Academy function that the city on the whole can be proud of will allow us to focus time, energy and resources on these key areas which will create a pathway to develop international stars of the future, whilst also allowing both clubs and rugby league to be pioneers in setting up the first of these ‘super academies’, that will soon become common place across the country.”
The move has been welcomed by the Rugby Football League, whose chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “Hull and Rovers are leading the way with this creation of a ‘super academy’ which could provide a model for other clubs to follow.”