Dear Lord Jonathan Cain, Rugby Football League and Super League Europe,
RE: York City Knights Rugby League Club Super League Application
I am writing in support of York City Knights Rugby League Football Club’s application for the 12th Super League place.
Rugby league in York has a long and proud history. A club first formed in York in 1868 which then joined the Northern Union in 1898. Throughout this long-history, we’ve made it to the Challenge Cup Final and have lifted the Yorkshire Cup. As well as creating those incredible sporting memories that following the fortunes of your hometown club can provide.
As a city, York has a proud industrial heritage and today, our major employers are still related to chocolate, the railways and construction, with Nestle, Network Rail (plus related rail companies) and Portakabin (Shepherd Group) respectively, our largest employers. In common with the rugby-league heartlands, the communities in York relish a good rugby match and support for the club has been growing exponentially in recent years.
Solid management from the Owner and Board, mixed with an exciting brand of rugby from the Coach and players, has meant that York City Knights have turned the talk of the city towards their exploits on the field. Winning promotion from League 1 and finishing third in the Championship has seen average attendances for the Knights rising by more than 250% since 2016 (592 average gate in 2016, to 2,125 in 2019).
The potential for a sustainable expansion of rugby league to North Yorkshire is massive. York is a growing city, at the centre-point of the East, North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, with enviable transport links. The new 8,500 all seater LNER Community Stadium has been built in York, and this awaits its final checks and completion before it will be hosting the Knights next year.
The rugby league community in York have infectious spirit about the game and its potential. I first met the City Knights Foundation as a newly-elected MP attending a community gala in 2015, invited to pass a ball through a target, I got talking, and soon realised the importance of the work that the Foundation does in our communities to change lives and inspire, through sport and rugby league.
Rugby league is well-rooted in York, we have a thriving amateur rugby league scene including clubs: York Acorn, Heworth (York’s oldest amateur rugby league club), York Lokomotive (York’s newest amateur rugby league club), and New Earswick All Blacks. Our two universities also have clubs for students; York Raiders at York University and York Tigers at York St John University.
Women’s rugby is also becoming more popular in York, with the York City Knights Ladies being founder members of the Rugby Football League Women’s Super League. The LNER Community Stadium will host a number of games at the Women’s World Cup 2021 including the semi-finals.
York is an attractive place to visit and makes for a memorable sporting day-out. Supporters can get here easily, and they are welcomed to the city. The addition of a desirable visitor location to Super League will further expand rugby league’s core support. I am sure that away supporters will want to make York their own Magic Weekend.
Rugby league is a game of hard-work and respect; values I share. When I get a chance, I enjoy watching the Knights and am always struck by the family ethos and atmosphere at the matches. Choosing to admit the York City Knights to the Super League would represent, in my view, a sustainable expansion of rugby league’s heartlands. It is a widening of the Super League in an attractive and respectful way.
As an MP with a keen interest in rugby league and sport, I regularly advocate for rugby league through my work in Westminster. I have previously placed an Early Day Motion before the House to support the Knights’ progress as well as recognising their work supporting women’s rugby league. Further to this, in the recent debate relating to rugby league brought by Yvette Cooper MP, I was pleased to attend and speak about the importance of fans being back in stadiums at the earliest opportunity.
I’ve no doubt that York can compete with the best in rugby league, we have the history, heritage and humble ambition to be a rugby league stronghold. The sport is grounded, embedded and growing in the city and wider region and a decision to admit York will be applauded.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
With best wishes,
Labour and Co-operative MP for York Central