FEATHERSTONE Rovers general manager Davide Longo has provided clarity in response to concerns from the club’s supporters.
Longo’s responses to a series of questions regarding the club’s current state and intentions are detailed below.
What financial impact has missing out on the top four had on the club?
“Featherstone Rovers will experience a potential 55% cut in central distribution funding, therefore immediate action is required in order to remain sustainable.
“A removal of playing staff was already planned, regardless of whether the team secured a top-four spot.
“I believe this will not have an impact on the value of the match day experience we provide supporters. In fact, It appears that the Championship will be a stronger competition next year.
“Certainly, if Bradford Bulls and York City Knights gain promotion from League 1 in place of the Championships weakest clubs, they will come up and be stronger financially.
“I also believe that if any Super League teams are relegated to the Championship then they will receive far more central distribution funding than we will, and will have the capacity to bring further excitement to the division.
“The club’s ability to compete with those teams next season will be heavily driven by the level of support maintained over the Championship Shield campaign.”
How prepared was the club for this scenario?
“This season was destined to provide the toughest Championship competition to date.
“We always knew there were going to be six elite clubs going for four spots and it would come down to fine margins.
“The extent to which that was the case was beyond what anyone could have imagined.
“I don’t believe the two clubs which missed out were the ones many would’ve predicted.
“We felt that we had positioned the club with a strong team, but there was always an awareness that we may drop out of the top-four.
“We were fully aware that there were a significant number of players off-contract at the beginning of the season, which meant that we were somewhat protected and in control of our own destiny.
“We definitely rolled the dice to not only make the top-four, but try to ensure our first choice 17 could compete with Super League clubs in the Qualifiers.
“I think we showed that could’ve been the case with our creditable display in the Challenge Cup against holders Hull FC and as an ambitious club, I think it is our responsibility to forge a way for us to compete when we face Super League opposition.
“We therefore retained the majority of last seasons squad and made a number of marquee signings.
“This was a calculated risk from a club who wanted to push on after securing our status as the country’s best part-time club last season, but as is necessary in sport, we had a plan for if this did not materialise as expected.
“We are now executing that plan, by reducing the deficit and cutting where we need to cut.”
Has the club’s stance on the League structure changed as a result of current circumstances?
“Definitely not. Everyone has been fixated by what is happening at the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Super League.
“Neutral supporters are fascinated by the unbelievable prospect of a team from outside of Europe replacing a heartland club in Super League.
“I think last night’s dramatic London Broncos victory really highlighted the excitement that competition generates.
“Of course, we are disappointed not to be involved in the Qualifiers, but that does not detract from our belief that it is an enthralling competition."
What is the future of the club’s current playing staff?
“This will be the last season at Featherstone for some of the players who are out of contract and that would have been the case whether we made the top-four or not.
“We are in consultation with a number of contracted players over the situation for next season.
“We have to be mindful of our massive reduction in central distribution money and we have to ensure the club is sustainable.
“All our efforts are focused on ensuring that Featherstone Rovers enter the 2019 season with a squad which is capable of competing at that top-four level, but that has to be aligned to what funding we have as a club.
“We are one of the most effective clubs at generating money through our off-field operations.
“The club is proud to have full ownership of its land and facilities.
“The stadium has hosted 17 finals days, one League 1 fixture and three Challenge Cup matches, including the televised match between Leeds Rhinos and Leigh Centurions.
“These additional fixtures, alongside external events which we host, generate a significant amount of revenue, which will enable us to assemble a strong squad next year.
“We obviously need to ensure that we continue to generate income from our remaining home fixtures.
“The level of support we receive in our four remaining home matches will have a significant impact on the quality of next season’s squad.”
What is the future of the club’s current coaching staff?
“The club is ambitious. It has expectations of top-four status and prides itself on being one of the best achieving part-time clubs in the game.
“We are in communication with the coaching staff over the current situation. There will be a need to reduce the number of coaching staff in our setup for next season, but we are consulting with them to come to a solution.”
What are the club’s intentions for recruitment?
“It is imperative that we reduce the playing budget, but we are in the process of a thorough recruitment operation.
“The huge divide in the Championship has revealed that some players are far beyond the level of the clubs they are currently attached to.
“The clear ambition of Featherstone Rovers provides us with an attractive proposition for these players and we will therefore look to cherry pick the best talents from other Championship clubs.
“At this stage I am unable to give a great amount of detail, but we are targeting several established players, who possess the required experience to improve our team.
“We are also looking at a number of talented youngsters, who I believe can thrive with the opportunities and environment we are able to offer.
“These players will be enthusiastic and exciting prospects, with a development background provided by coaches we respect.
“It was disappointing that we were never truly able to field our strongest 17 this year, as some effective recruitment in the last closed season meant that would have been the most dangerous Featherstone side in recent times.
“We have a clear strategy for recruitment in this closed season, which I think will complement our remaining players from this season, who have of course gained experience in the toughest Championship to date.”
What is the current state of the club’s dual-registration agreement with Leeds Rhinos?
“The club’s partnership with Leeds Rhinos is very strong.
“I am aware people have split opinion on the system, but ultimately it is a resource which is currently available to us.
“It is a resource which we would be foolish not to take advantage of.
“Our partnership is one of the best in the game, as Leeds Rhinos are one of the biggest clubs in the sport.
“They have obviously experienced a number of staff changes, but the level of professionalism from Leeds Rhinos in communicating them with us was superb.
“As soon as the changes were made we were put into meetings with Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Jonny Wainhouse and Jason Davidson.
“Constant communication has continued with them since those initial meetings.
“I know that people often say the dual-registration system has limitations around fixture pileups, but until there is another resource available, we are content in the knowledge our setup is one of the most beneficial achievable.”
Does the club have any plans regarding a reserve setup going forward?
“We do. We have been in consultation on the process of setting up a reserve grade team.
“There is currently doubt over the competition structure for reserve grade and which clubs are committed to fielding a team.
“It appears that there will be enough to have regular fixtures and if that is the case then we have certainly expressed our firm interest for entering.
“I personally view this as the addition of another fantastic resource, which will benefit the club, players and supporters in a number of ways.
“It will allow us to scout the local area for talent and give more of them a chance to become the next Zak Hardaker or Josh Hardcastle.
“It will offer a huge boost to player welfare. We have had players struggle with long-term injuries in recent seasons and they would have a platform to step back into action with the addition of a reserve setup.
“From my experience, it will also help experienced players rediscover their form, young players refine their skills and of course provide more insight into the squad for supporters.
“Fans loved watching ‘A’ team fixtures on Thursday nights and I’m sure the appetite is still there.
“Current first team players like Luke Cooper came through a reserve setup, which from my understanding, became unsustainable and ultimately unfair on players due to a lack of fixtures.
“We remain fully behind a reserve grade which can guarantee sufficient fixtures though.
“It is frustrating that the RFL are not moving the process of putting a reserve structure in place quickly enough, but we’ve certainly expressed an interest and are ready to go.”
How committed to Featherstone Rovers are the club officials?
“We are fully committed. I know the supporters live and breathe the club, but so do we as club officials.
“We’re here every single day and there is never a moment where the club’s welfare is out of our minds.
“Featherstone is undoubtedly a family and that makes the current conversations with individuals over cost cutting, a very difficult task.
“We have to keep level headed though, and ensure our decisions are the correct ones for the club’s long-term future.
“We always expect our decisions to be criticised by fans, because they care about the club like us.
“I will stress that our decisions are always based on a deep knowledge of the situation, whereas there are occasions when not all the relevant information is publicly available.
“It is frustrating at times, that we are bound by confidentiality to other organisations and are therefore unable to present supporters with this information, but that is part of operating in a professional manner.
“We would like to reintroduce fans forums, however fans forums only stopped as they did not spark the same level of engagement that occurs on social media.
“We want to be challenged if we create these platforms.
“We know how much the club means to the people of the local area and we share their deep love for the club.”
What expectations can supporters and shareholders have for the club’s upcoming AGM?
“This will be the first AGM during my time at the club.
“Supporters can expect honesty. We will give an exact rundown of the club’s current state.
“Our full-time finance director Robin Knight will ensure this is on an unparalleled level to previous AGMs.
“We will also layout a clear vision for next season and beyond.
“There are limitations to that, due to the uncertainty over the RFL’s vision for the sport.
“Ironically, we cannot look beyond the clubs centenary year, 2021.
“We do know we can remain stable regardless, due to our off-field revenue streams.
“We have businesses and Wakefield College’s university centre onsite, in addition to the events we host and Wakefield Trinity’s continued use of our facilities.
“This will be covered at the AGM, with as much transparency as possible.
“I also expect us to be challenged by the shareholders at the meeting, because like us, they want the best for the club.”
What constitutes success for Featherstone Rovers?
“We have to be realistic. My view on what constitutes success for this club is the same as when I first arrived.
“It must be sustainable at a competitive level. I currently categorise that level as the top-four.
“With the structure currently in place, Featherstone have faced clubs spending multiple times more on their playing budgets, when competing in the Qualifiers.
“This year there are seven full-time clubs in that competition, with Halifax the only part-time team.
“Therefore, we need to be realistic in viewing the route to Super League as difficult for part-time clubs, but that’s not to say you cannot be competitive in the Qualifiers.
“Success for us is making the top-four and then having enough money in the bank to be able to improve the squad going into the qualifiers.
“That was the plan this year, but if you look at Leigh’s current situation, it emphasises the need to know your fate before taking a significant risk.
“Next year, reaching the top-four will be the requirement again, despite my belief it will be an even tougher Championship than this year.”
Featherstone Rovers supporters will have further opportunity to receive information from Longo and the rest of the club’s officials at the Featherstone Rovers annual general meeting on Thursday 18 October, from 7:30pm.
The AGM will be hosted in the Legends Suite at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
The team will next be in action against Batley Bulldogs on Sunday (kick-off 3pm). Tickets for Featherstone’s match against the Bulldogs and all other Super8s matches are now available for purchase.
Season Ticket Holders (pre-bought with Super8s vouchers only)
Non-Season Ticket Holders (Receive £2 off adult and concession (only) with pre-bought tickets)