No ‘sticking plaster’ solution to problems in rugby league, says new Super League chairman Ken Davy

Super League’s interim chairman Ken Davy wants to re-align the organisation with the Rugby Football League – saying there can be no “sticking plaster” solution to the sport’s issues.

Huddersfield owner Ken Davy. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

With the new season starting tonight, the competition has been keen to draw a line under its governance issues – executive chairman Robert Elstone left last month – to understandably let the players do the talking.

With that in mind, Davy, who turns 80 in July and is Super League’s longest-serving club chairman having owned Huddersfield Giants since 1996, is seen as the steadying influence required at the helm.

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He said he will be in charge for three months – “possibly a bit longer and absolutely definitely interim” – before handing over to a successor.

Super League clubs essentially split from the RFL in 2018 in a bid to take control of more of their own business, Elstone employed to maximise revenue and secure a new broadcast deal.

However, he hit problems, especially in trying to get all 12 clubs agreeing on key matters, not least when he secured a private equity deal but could not then get it passed. That raised talk of going back under the RFL’s umbrella but Davy says – while there is an appetite to work more closely with the sport’s governing body again – it will not signify a U-turn.

“I have a very clear objective: to work with Betfred Super League clubs and the RFL to create a lasting framework – a permanent framework – which will enable us to unlock the massive potential I believe exists within Super League and the whole sport of rugby league,” he said.

“I was elected with a mandate from the clubs to realign Super League and the RFL.

“It does not mean going back to how it was a few years before. The fact is, the Betfred Super League clubs are the jewel in the crown of rugby league and I do believe it’s vitally important that the realignment recognises this.

“I’d like to see an agreement between the Super League clubs and the RFL that realigns the commercial and strategic assets of the game so that we can maximise our impact on the field and from a marketing point of view. It’s all about the game and players. We shouldn’t be talking about men in suits, what’s going on in negotiations or what the Board’s doing; the focus should be on players, the athletes, the spectacle of rugby league.”

Clearly, though, rugby league has been here many times before and clubs have been accused of self-interest and holding too much power in the past.

Davy knows a long-term solution is required and said: “We don’t want a sticking plaster and I don’t think any of the Super League clubs want that.

“We have an opportunity here. I think the right decision was taken three years ago.

“But I do believe whilst we absolutely can’t go back to where we were, it does feel to me that there is an opportunity for a realignment – not a reunification – and that’s what the majority of clubs have voted for.

“I believe there is a real desire for unity in the game and in Super League in particular.

“The desire for unity among the clubs is greater than any other emotion. That’s a very strong message I get from them.”

Davy said Super League are in the “final stages” of negotiations with Sky on a new broadcast deal and, while not discussing the size of it, added: “I think it’s fairly common knowledge that no one is expecting it to go up.”

He expressed a desire to make Super League more “open and transparent” but does not envisage their stance on the North America game altering.

Meanwhile, Keith Hellawell – a former Chief Constable for West Yorkshire – will take over as Huddersfield chairman in the interim. Davy said: “There’ll be no material change there; Keith is a very experienced chairman and he has also been on the Giants Board for about 15 years.”

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