HULL FC owner Adam Pearson admits he is glad to be out of a football business that has “lost affinity” with its fans.
The former Leeds United commercial director had twice previously been chairman of Hull City, including during their last Premier League season of 2009-10, and also Derby County.
However, he made a surprise switch to rugby league when buying Hull FC two years ago and takes the East Yorkshire club to Wembley for the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final on Saturday week.
Pearson is certainly delighted to see promoted City back in the top flight – they start the new season at Chelsea on Sunday – but concedes he is not missing his first love.
Granted, he was initially frustrated with some of rugby league’s workings, a sport which was relatively alien to him, but now admits being smitten by its appeal.
“I don’t have one regret about buying Hull FC,” the 48-year-old told the Yorkshire Post.
“And the more it goes on the more involved and intense I am about the game, the club and the future.
“I look at things going on in football and think ‘Christ, I’m glad I’m in this sport.’
“There’s a loss of affinity and a loss of identity between the supporters, and players and clubs in football and the money is just so enormous.
“The players can still go out in the community but they’re not actually a part of it.
“This rugby club IS a huge part of the Hull community and the players and the fans can identify with one another without being on different planets.
“As a product to watch I’m absolutely enthralled by it, am massively involved in the sport and have huge respect for the players.
“When I see the effort our boys put in I absolutely mean it when I say it makes me really proud to be associated as chairman or owner of Hull FC.”
Hull have won the prestigious Challenge Cup just three times in the competition’s 117-year history but are intent on surprising favourites Wigan Warriors.
Ironically, that takes place on the same afternoon City have their first home game back among the elite against Norwich City, with the Airlie Birds revealing plenty of fans who support both will be opting instead for Wembley.
Harrogate-born Pearson was stunned by the vast numbers and enthusiasm of the Hull faithful as they shocked holders Warrington Wolves in the semi-final.
“The intensity of support that day was quite staggering and it has really amazed me how intense their support is,” he continued.
“It’s magnificent that they’re getting a chance to win the Challenge Cup. It’s great for the club and puts us back on the map.
“It gets us involved in any of the conversations going forward on the extension of the World Club Challenge and that kind of thing but it’s massively important we’re challenging every year both for the top of Super League and Wembley.”
It is their league campaign that takes priority tomorrow when Hull – fresh from a crucial derby victory at Hull KR – host Salford City Reds, looking for a victory that could see them displace Catalan Dragons in sixth place.
Although their weekly form has been erratic, Peter Gentle’s side could yet finish as high as fifth and earn a home tie in the play-offs.
It is 30 years since Hull last won the title, Pearson making it his principal target when he took over to eventually usurp Leeds Rhinos as the dominant force in Super League, a side that has triumphed in five of the last six Grand Finals.
Clearly, that is a work in progress but he has invested heavily in all areas to help make Hull more competitive, not least their youth development.
“We’re acutely aware of how important it is to have that Academy conveyor belt Leeds have,” Pearson continued, with some products like prolific three-quarters Ben Crooks and Tom Lineham already well-established.
“We feel we’ve made massive strides in that area. We have four players in the England youth squad to face Wales (more than any other club) and have some real talent in key positions coming through at 16, 17 and 18.
“We believe that will make huge inroads into catching the likes of Leeds, Wigan and Warrington.
“Until we get that conveyor belt of talent coming through, though, I still think we’re going to be fighting a real tough battle to keep up with them because you’ve only got a certain amount of money to spend with the salary cap and it’s about getting it spot on.
“But it’s been great seeing all the young lads going well this year like Ben Crooks, Tom Lineham and now Jamie Shaul too.
“We’ve still got Josh Bowden to come back, Chris Green is in there and now, with people like Jacob Miller and Joe Arundel coming in at a young age, it means we’ve got a real chance to build a young Hull team for many years. Once we do that we’ve got a chance of competing with Leeds. Stability with the coaching and academy structure is important too.”
Prop Mark O’Meley is out of the Salford game with a slight injury but should be fit for Wembley.