Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell in shock decision to quit the club

NEIL HUDGELL has sensationally quit his role as Hull KR chairman saying he does not feel able to “do justice to it any longer.”

Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell (JPIMEDIA)

The club’s owner - who has been in charge since 2004 - will step down on December 1 after spending a significant amount of time reaching his difficult decision.

The shock news will leave concerned fans worried about the East Yorkshire club’s future given it was already facing a fight for survival on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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However, Hudgell, a lifelong fan who has helped bankroll the Robins throughout his reign, maintains whoever takes over will see “a significant level of liquidity” in the Super League outfit.

In a statement, he said: “Lockdown has given me a chance to reflect on the sport, the club and my personal situation.

“Hull Kingston Rovers has been an all-consuming journey for me for the last 16 years and I have decided that now is the right time for change

“Coming back to play brings with it a return of the same old stresses and anxieties.

“The weight of expectation for a club of our size and support base is enormous and needs more than I feel I am now able to give.

Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell introduces then Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch to his players ahead of the 2015 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. (Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

“With all that in mind I do not believe I can do justice to it any longer, which would be letting down the magnificent support base of our great club.

“Therefore, I will be relinquishing my position as Chairman of the club with effect from 1st December 2020.”

Hudgell has overseen so many positive changes - on and off the field - at the club who were operating in the second tier when he first took charge.

His backing helped KR reach Super League in 2006 and, despite their lack of financial clout compared to many rivals, they have generally held their own in the competition.

They also made the Challenge Cup final in 2015 for the first time in almost 30 years and, although relegated the following season, Hudgell ensured the club remained a full-time operation and saw them immediately return to the top-flight.

However, he revealed he suffered ‘personal abuse’ from some fans for the first time last year when the Robins only survived another demotion due to a superior points difference to London Broncos on the last night of the campaign.

Hudgell continued: “It has been a very difficult decision especially as I came into it as a lifelong fan but one I feel is in the best long term interests of the club.

“Any incumbent would be taking over a club with a significant level of liquidity, as well as Super League status preserved.

“I am looking to hand over the club in a better place than where I found it.

“The opportunity to buy Hull College Craven Park and the surrounding land also remain as explorable options.

“It has been an honour to lead Hull Kingston Rovers for such a long time and I have so many people to thank and praise for their help and support throughout the journey.

“But it’s time for me to sit it out for a while and more importantly time for someone else to come in and elevate our great club to where I have not quite managed to take it.”

Hudgell, who has various business interests including his own solicitors firm and a bar with Hull FC owner Adam Pearson, signed off his statement “up the Robins”.

His departure will not only be a loss to his club but the sport as a whole; he is a knowledgeable and respected administrator who has also not been afraid to challenge the powers-that-be at regular times and on a number of issues.

Meanwhile, Rovers chief executive Mike Smith was due to step down three months ago but stayed to help them through the financial difficulties of this unique and turbulent campaign.

It is expected the 57-year-old will now carry on until the club do find new investors although, in the current climate, that could be particularly difficult.

To highlight that point, Super League came under fire today after it emerged it would not receive any money from a sponsorship deal with Papa John’s Pizza - players and matchday staff instead simply being fed free pizza after games.

Earlier this year, at the onset of Covid, Hudgell vowed not to put any more of his own money into Rovers unless relegation from Super League was taken off the table in 2020.

That was finally confirmed late in July - only after Toronto Wolfpack pulled out of the competition - and it eased Rovers’ immediate concerns given they had won just one of their opening seven fixtures.

Since the sport emerged from five months of lockdown at the start of the month, Rovers have only played once - a 40-10 defeat to Warrington on August 8 - having been due to face Toronto twice and they remain bottom of Super League.

They are back in action on Sunday lunchtime when they face champions St Helens at Warrington.