Hull KR will stay full-time, says chairman Neil Hudgell

HULL KR chairman Neil Hudgell says the club will 'very definitely' stay full-time following relegation from Super League, but their playing budget will depend on the level of support from fans and sponsors alike.

Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell (Picture: Simon Hulme).

He was speaking 48 hours after Saturday’s significantly costly Million Pound Game defeat to Salford Red Devils, which saw their 10-year stay in the top flight brought to a sudden halt.

Rovers will be in the Championship next season where most clubs operate on a semi-professional basis.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They have lost around £1m in central funding, but Hudgell has vowed to maintain a full-time regime in 2017 even if there are a number of caveats.

“Very definitely, I can say that straight away,” he said, when asked if that would be the case.

“The extent of that squad will have some dependency on the level of supporters passes we sell and the commercial opportunities we get.

“Central funding more than halves from £1.7m to £750,000 so clearly there’s some savings we need to make.

“We don’t officially lose our Super League revenue until the end of November so the next couple of months are really crucial.

“We don’t want knee-jerk reactions, serving P45s left, right and centre. It’s about rationalising over the next few weeks. People will be impatient to know who’s coming and going, but the message is overall we want to keep the core of the club intact so that we can benefit and be stronger from the experience of going down for a year and hopefully bouncing straight back.”

Hudgell, who initially said he took “full responsibility” for Rovers’ demotion, added he has been encouraged by the response of fans and sponsors since Saturday.

“It’s been overwhelming and has really galvanised us a bit,” said the chairman, who has been in charge since 2004.

“Supporters who haven’t bought passes for years say they will and sponsors have said they’ll spend the same money and, in some cases, more money than in Super League.

“It’s really strange in some respects, but doesn’t totally surprise me. It’s encouraging to have that level of support.”

Hudgell confirmed he had met with incoming head coach Tim Sheens, the veteran former Australia chief, and head of rugby Jamie Peacock to assemble plans.

“You have to bear in mind we have a world-class coach and a world-class football manager – we just need a world-class team now,” he said.

“That’s easier said than done. The next couple of weeks is all about sorting on and off the field, but there are other people at the club, too, whose livelihoods have been called into question and everyone is quite nervous. Our first priority is to calm those nerves, rationalise our spend and be like any other business in the circumstances we are.

“It’s a huge disappointment what’s happened, but it’s gone.

“There’s no point wallowing in self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves, but at the same time lessons have to be learned.

“I’ve learned a few lessons myself; I’m sure the players will and the coaching staff.

“I think we have a great opportunity with Tim coming in to start afresh whilst if we’d have stayed in Super League we’d be tinkering at the edges a little bit. It gives us a great opportunity now to be a little bit more radical and cut away some of the excess.”

Former Super League champions Bradford Bulls and London Broncos, the last two teams to be relegated in 2014, both remain in the Championship and, at times, have found life difficult, offering evidence of how tough it will be for Rovers to plot a return.

Hudgell says he will look at the example of Leigh Centurions, though, whose bold recruitment policy saw them finish top in the Championship for a third successive year and then, crucially, defeat three Super League sides in the Qualifiers to earn promotion for 2017.

“Leigh are the flagship club at the minute for what they’ve done this year,” he said, when talking to the club’s TV station.

“They assembled a very strong, experienced squad and complemented that at the business end of the season with some more signings.

“We’ve got Super League quality in there; it’s retaining that, refreshing it and giving it our best shot.

“We’re under no illusions. We know it won’t be a breeze in the park and a straightforward return.

“We have to set a goal of top-four in the Championship – top one, really – and then we’re in this (Qualifiers) dogfight at the end that we’ve just come out of.”

It remains to be seen whether their planned recruitment – the likes of Bradford duo Danny Addy and Mitch Clark along with Wakefield prop Nick Scruton were understood to be on their way – will go ahead.

Sheens has returned to Australia to speak to “targets” while Hudgell pledged the club’s City of Hull Academy would not suffer because of their financial hit.