Hull caught in middle of political battle

Plans to rescue one of rugby league's most famous clubs from the threat of extinction could be wrecked by political in-fighting.

Plans to rescue one of rugby league's most famous clubs from the threat of extinction could be wrecked by political in-fighting.

Brian Johnson, chief executive of the beleaguered Hull Sharks, fears the growing split between Super League and the Association of Premiership Clubs (APC) will jeopardise proposals to safeguard the future of the East Yorkshire club.

Debt-ridden Hull want to join forces with Gateshead Thunder, a move which would trigger a £1.25million 'merger' payment from Super League.

The controversial plan has received the blessing of fellow Super League clubs but the plan is subject to Hull being allowed to drop into the Northern Ford Premiership (NFP) and so far the APC have refused to comply.

The matter is set to come to a head at a potentially stormy special general meeting of all clubs in Leeds this afternoon.

Block votes will decide the issue and both bodies will hold separate meetings this morning to determine their course of action.

"Politics are going to decide this, not common sense," said Johnson. "The antagonism that has built up between Super League and the First Division clubs is now manifesting itself."

APC chairman Bob McDermott argues that, with the new NFP season getting under way on Boxing Day, there is no time to reorganise the league and that the admission of Hull on the condition that the club is barred from gaining promotion for three years would devalue the competition.

There is also some resentment in APC circles that Super League appear to be dictating to the lower-division clubs.

The APC, who flexed their muscles last month when refusing Huddersfield permission to operate a team in the NFP following their merger with Sheffield, are also unhappy at the refusal to promote NFP champions Hunslet into Super League, although that decision was taken by an independent franchise panel.

Hull are caught in the middle, with Johnson admitting that closure is a very real threat if the vote goes against his club today.

"The whole scenario is worrying to say the least," he said. "We have a huge debt that has to be financed. If the APC clubs maintain their present stance, (owner) David Lloyd could allow the club to go bust.

"The worry is that West Hull will become disenfranchised and that would be a disaster not only for the area but for the game."

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