Why York City Knights make compelling case to be Super League’s 12th club

Continuing our series looking at the six clubs vying for right to be Super League’s ‘12th club’, Dave Craven turns the spotlight on York City Knights.

Upwardly mobile - York City Knights (Picture: SWpix.com)
Upwardly mobile - York City Knights (Picture: SWpix.com)

On Monday, the decision will be announced as to who will become the 12th club in Super League for 2021.

If York City Knights succeed, they promise to “elevate” the brand to improved levels and “showcase” the sport in a manner fit for elite sport.

It is bold talk for a club who were in League 1 not so long ago but the ambitious Championship club have a history of delivering on their promises.

Since Jon Flatman took over ownership of the failing outfit at the end of 2016 he has helped build it up both on and off the field, earning admiration from all areas of the sport and beyond.

They are not former World Club champions like Bradford Bulls, one of their five rivals for the coveted spot, and do not have previous Super League experience like London Broncos and Leigh Centurions.

However, as Flatman spells out, it is clear the City Knights – who are ready to switch from part-time to full-time playing status if given the nod – could bring so much to the top division.

“We’ve focused it around some key areas,” he told The Yorkshire Post, with a seven-strong panel set to decide next week who will replace Toronto Wolfpack.

Promising: York City Knights and their head coach James Ford, pictured, are an up-and-coming force (Picture: SWPix.com)

“One is the opportunity for geographic expansion and growth of Super League in the iconic City of York in addition to North Yorkshire, the largest county in the UK.

“The sport is a firmly established part of the culture and heritage of the city and the region. York City Knights are a club that delivers within the political, commercial and third sectors of the local and regional economy. The door is open for the sport and for Super League to deliver growth both geographically and financially in York and North Yorkshire. York City Knights in the Super League competition grows the ‘size of the pie’ and generates opportunities and success for all parties.”

Granted, it is a different type of expansion to Canada but, after the failed attempt of Toronto to embed themselves in Super League, perhaps introducing a first North Yorkshire club to the elite will be seen as a more realistic approach by the decision-makers.

Having finished third last year, behind Toronto and Toulouse Olympique – the French club who are the other promotion hopefuls with Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions – York proved they can compete on the field. In James Ford, they have one of the brightest young coaches in the game and they have already made a raft of signings with Super League experience for 2021 including Grand Final winner Adam Cuthbertson from Leeds Rhinos and former England centre Ryan Atkins. Named as the RFL’s 2019 Championship Club of the Year, they have created a real buzz through their intelligent use of social media.

Perhaps most impressively, though, is the new 8,000 stadium they are set to move into, leaving their current home at York City’s Bootham Crescent.

Flatman conceded: “It’s a new stadium and location for a Super League club that offers a fantastic narrative for the broadcaster, high-quality facilities and brilliant pictures for broadcast.

“The LNER Stadium enables the Super League and the sport to be showcased in a manner fit for elite sport. The club carries the name of one of the most recognisable cities in the world and elevates the brand of Super League to a different and improved place by association.”

A compelling bid. Whatever happens next week, York City Knights will continue to grow.

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