'Just make a decision' - League One uncertainty 'massively frustrating' for Hunslet boss

Hunslet coach Gary Thornton admits he is “massively frustrated” by continuing uncertainty over the Betfred League One season.

Friday, 26th June 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 26th June 2020, 12:38 pm
Hunslet's Tom Ashton. Picture by Paul Johnson.

Just two rounds had been played when rugby league was suspended on March 16 because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Clubs this week failed to agree if or when the Championship and League One will resume - and were even split over a date for making that decision.

They have been asked by the Rugby Football League (RFL) to make their views known in a survey which will be presented to another board meeting on Monday, July 6.

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Hunslet have not played since a Coral Challenge Cup tie at Featherstone Rovers on March 13 and Thornton said: “It is massively frustrating, for two reasons.

“We want to know what is going on with this year, obviously. If we run out of time, we run out of time and let’s cancel it.

“But the longer that decision is delayed, the bigger impact it has on next year.

“From my point of view, if this year is going to be scrapped or become meaningless because there’s no promotion and relegation and it’s not a proper full fixture list, then someone needs to make a decision pretty quickly, then we can start looking forward to next year.”

Hunslet's Ben Markland scores the winning try in a pre-season game against Batley Bulldogs.

Hunslet have built a squad Thornton believes is capable of challenging for promotion.

“Players want to know what’s happening,” he added. “Players are coming out of contract and other clubs are moving on players and at the moment, because we don’t know what our starting point for next year is, we’re not in a similar position to offer deals and contracts.

“We have made some good signings this year and I am a bit worried other clubs might come in and sign them before we get a chance to talk to them. So it is frustrating and I think delaying a decision makes that frustration bigger.”

The Parksiders’ boss insisted: “If we run out of time and 2020 has to be cancelled, somebody make that decision and then at least we can sit down and start planning for 2021.

Hunslet's Jack Lee. Picture by Paul Johnson.

“I understand there is some patience required, but the longer it drags on the less likely we are to play again.

“The sooner a decision is made, the better.”

Some clubs are keen to resume, but others fear playing behind closed doors is not financially viable and are also worried about the cost of testing players and staff for coronavirus - around £5,000 per week - and making training environments safe.

“We are like a lot of other [lower division] clubs,” Thornton said. “I think from a financial perspective we are going to struggle to follow the return to training regime, because of the testing costs.

“We are certainly going to struggle to play behind closed doors and one of the frustrating things for us is we play from a council-run stadium and at the moment those facilities are all closed.

“We can’t say we are ready to resume because our stadium’s ready, because it isn’t. Playing behind closed doors is a no-goer because, while the crowds aren’t massive, the bar takings and the rest of it contribute towards our annual income.

“Without that, we are going to have a massive shortfall on paying out players’ contracts and wages.”

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