Hull FC have revealed their latest Centre of Excellence initiative with the unveiling of a vastly experienced Strategic Board, featuring international sports stars Nick Barmby and Richard Horne.
The high-calibre strategic working group was established earlier this summer to further enhance the fantastic work of the club’s Centre of Excellence at the University of Hull, with the independent board tasked with encouraging positive change, providing leadership and ensuring everyone in the programme remains accountable to deliver the best possible pathway for players, coaches and parents, as the club strive to unearth rugby league stars of the future.
Hull FC’s commitment to youth development has been widely praised and the Centre of Excellence now provides the region’s leading performance and education pathway for young players from age 12 to 23, as well as further in-roads into womens, girls and disability forms of the game, with 14 teams now under the club’s banner.
To ensure that youth development remains at the forefront of the Black & Whites long-term agenda, the Strategic Board has been formulated to provide invaluable insight and experience from people who have been there and done it, who in turn will be able to directly influence the journey of some of the city’s brightest sports stars.
The board is comprised of Hull FC Chief Executive, James Clark, a driving force behind the Centre of Excellence, as well as the club’s Head of Youth, Pete Riding, and Head of Emerging Talent, Michael Shenton – an experienced former Super League player in his own right.
They are joined on the board by three independent panel members, as outlined below:
Lt. Col. David Groce MBE (Chair): From Hull originally and having gone to school in Beverley, David is a long-term supporter of the club. He is the current Chair of Armed Forces RL, representing them at the RFL Council. David is also Commanding Officer of 7 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, and has represented forces Rugby League for many years, helping develop the Armed Forces RL team. He will provide invaluable experience in leadership, communication, developing young people, as well as offering enhanced exit routes for academy players into the military.
Richard Horne, rugby league player & coach: Richard is a modern-day legend of the club, who brings a unique insight to the board as not only a former player and current Rugby League head coach at Doncaster, but also as a parent, with son, Josh, currently enrolled on the club’s scholarship. A former Challenge Cup winner, Richard will bring a wealth of experience across all these areas to benefit the growth of the Centre of Excellence, understanding first-hand what it takes to embark on the journey from academy to first-grade, as well as insight into the operation of the Centre of Excellence from a parent’s perspective. Richard was one of only a handful of players to make his full debut at the age of just 16, playing almost 400 games for Hull FC as a loyal one-club man, as well as earning 23 caps for Great Britain, England & Scotland.
Nick Barmby, former professional footballer: Former England international footballer Nick Barmby is arguably Hull’s greatest-ever young sportsman having represented his country, as well as playing for world-renowned clubs like Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Everton, Leeds United, and his hometown club Hull City. Having made his debut for Spurs, aged just 18, he went on to play over 500 career games for club and country, scoring 84 goals, including 23 caps for England. Nick has been a huge Hull FC fan from a young age, and still regularly attends Super League fixtures to support his team. Nick is the perfect ambassador and role model for young players within the club’s Centre of Excellence, demonstrating what young players from Hull can achieve in their careers, whilst bringing a wealth of experience from professional sport and a huge passion for the sport of rugby league.
The Strategic Board will meet every 2-3 months, with regular updates aligned to the club’s Centre of Excellence development plan, as well as contributions from other key members of the programme across coaching, talentID, regional development, welfare and safeguarding, parent liaison, and personnel such as club legend Lee Crooks, the club’s Regional Development Manager and University Rugby League Head Coach.
Strategic Board Chairman, Lt. Col. David Groce MBE said: “This is a fantastic initiative to be part of and I am very proud to be able to play a key role alongside such a high calibre of experienced panel members, who are already investing a huge amount of passion into the growth of the club’s Centre of Excellence.
“I have been extremely impressed with the progress the club have made in a relatively short amount of time and the dedication of everyone involved in making this the best place for young players to develop both on the field and as people has been infectious.
“The board meetings have been extremely positive so far and it is exciting to see the direction of travel for the club, which will become the backbone of a successful organisation for many years to come – and I hope to provide both my personal investment and military experience where possible.”
Hull FC Chief Executive, James Clark, added: “We are thrilled to have secured the support of three highly decorated independent board members who not only have rich pedigree in their own careers, but more so have the club firmly at heart.
“For me, Richard and Nick are the epitome of what our Centre of Excellence is all about and they are perfect role models for our young players and coaches, whilst we are fortunate to be able to lean on the experience and leadership quality of David as our independent Chair.
“The calibre of people that want to be involved in our programme highlights the ongoing strength of our Centre of Excellence as we strive to deliver the best possible pathway for young sports people in this region, typified by our recent recruitment success and the number of young players selected for regional camps and our first-team squad.”