York go out of business as rescue attempt fails

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Professional rugby league has come to an end in York after more than a hundred years following the collapse of last-ditch attempts to find a buyer for the club.

Professional rugby league has come to an end in York after more than a hundred years following the collapse of last-ditch attempts to find a buyer for the club.

The Wasps' four-man board decided to wind up the club last week, citing desperately poor attendances and a lack of sponsorship support from the city.

But they were persuaded to keep looking for someone to take over their debts, estimated at £30,000, until a deadline of 3pm yesterday. York supporters raised £10,000, the players agreed to play for nothing and a potential buyer was in negotiations until yesterday morning, but the deadline came and went.

"The backer we thought would come in didn't have time to formulate a business plan and therefore will not be putting any money into the club," said the former director Russell Greenfield. "We're very sad, but the club no longer exists. It's a terrible situation, but we couldn't have tried any harder."

That means that York's match against Featherstone in the National League Cup on Friday will not go ahead and that their games so far this season are likely to be expunged from the record. The only ray of light is that in similar situations new companies have sprung up after existing ones have given up the ghost and the Rugby League will not close the door on that possibility.

Despite the strength of amateur rugby league in the city, York has never been one of the game's most successful clubs. Admitted to what was then the Northern Union in 1901, they had perhaps their finest moment in 1931, when they lost to Halifax in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

They won the Yorkshire Cup three times, as well as losing three times in the final, and experienced two high-points in the 1980s, gaining promotion to the then First Division as Champions in 1981 and reaching the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup in 1984 before losing to Wigan.

However, by the end of the decade York were in such a poor financial position that they had to sell their atmospheric and accessible Clarence Street ground and move to an out-of-town stadium run by neighbouring Ryedale Council, temporarily changing their name to Ryedale-York in the process.

The club never recaptured its place in the city's affections and a slow and uneven decline saw them finish bottom of the Northern Ford Premiership with three points last season, being reduced to fielding teams of local amateurs on occasions. Despite offers of support from, among others the New York Economic Development Council, this season was even worse, with one victory so far – over Chorley with 280 watching what turned out to be the club's last game.

Their disappearance leaves the Rugby League with another brick missing in the pyramid structure it plans to introduce next season. York were to have been in National League Two, while Gateshead and Swinton also must be counted as doubtful starters in that division.

To make matters worse, there have been few amateur clubs showing any interest in joining National League Three. Two days from the deadline, it is understood that there were only two applicants.