Hunslet – the only supporter owned club in Rugby League – broke new ground last night (Friday 22 January) by staging their first `virtual’ annual general meeting, and possibly the first in the sport, Covid-19 lockdown restrictions preventing the usual gathering in the South Leeds Stadium’s Phoenix Lounge.

The well-attended event was immediately hailed as a success, with plenty of positive subsequent feedback from members, who were boosted by confirmation that the club is in a healthy financial position despite the impact on all sports of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman Kenny Sykes took the opportunity, in the light of the Rugby Football League’s earlier announcement that only three Betfred League 1 teams will be involved in the 2021 Coral Challenge Cup, to explain to the 40 attendees the background to Hunslet not taking part.

He said: “I just wanted to give a bit of further context from a Hunslet point of view.

“Due to the impact of Covid, and a compressed season, the Challenge Cup format needs to be different in 2021. You will have seen already that there will be no community clubs involved, and that there is only enough space in the draw to include three League 1 clubs, with Super League and Championship clubs taking priority.

“The RFL initially asked that clubs express interest to help gauge numbers. The understanding was that if more than three clubs were interested then a selection would be made based purely on 2019 league placings, which did not seem unreasonable.

“However, when more than three clubs expressed interest, the RFL then suggested that a preliminary round would be needed to allow all interested clubs to enter – but, importantly, also confirmed that there would be no prize money for the preliminary round.

Sykes continued: “Clubs were then invited to reaffirm their interest but with a guarantee that, if more than three clubs still wanted to participate, they would play in a preliminary round.

“After further consideration we did not think it financially viable to agree to that condition; and the gap between the preliminary round match and the start of the League 1 campaign would – if we were to be knocked out – be too long. We are, though, disappointed by the way this has been handled; lessons need to be learned by the RFL.”