Hull KR Chief Executive Mike Smith to step down

Hull Kingston Rovers chief executive Mike Smith is to step down from his position at the club after a decade in the role.

Smith, 57, says he firmly believes the time is right for ‘a fresh approach’ at Hull KR, whilst he says it is also the right time personally for him to leave behind the pressures of being at the helm of a Super League club.

Looking back over his 10 years as chief executive at Hull College Craven Park, he says he takes great pride in the progress made, particularly in terms of the developments and continued progress off the field.

However, he admits that come the end of May, when he will leave his role, he will do so with a tinge of regret that Rovers are still to re-establish themselves as one of the sport’s major forces.

“I’m incredibly proud of how the club has developed over the 10 years I have been in the role, particularly off the field, given the development of the North Stand, the success we have in hosting large events such as concerts and boxing and the numbers of members we now have backing the club,” he said.

“We’ve made great strides and achieved things many thought would never happen, such as attracting international rugby, and all of these things have helped put the club on a much more solid footing.

“Of course, I’d have loved to have seen us establish ourselves as a top four Super League club, but that just hasn’t happened despite so much dedication and hard work.

“I think as a club we have always had our ups and downs, and that has been evidenced in the last three or four seasons alone.

“Getting to Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final was an obvious high in 2015, but of course that ended with that incredible low feeling of suffering such a heavy loss in the final. That tells you plenty about life at KR – you have to be prepared for everything that can be thrown at you.”

Smith admits that a period of poor health in 2018 and 2019 in which he spent two periods in hospital with pancreatitis made him begin to reflect on his longer term future, and with three grandchildren also now demanding his time, he will now look for a role which gives him greater flexibility.

“It’s a 24/7 job being a chief executive of a Super League club and that brings so many pressures. There is of course the pressure of doing well on the field and meeting the expectations of supporters, but the day to day challenges are tough as there are so many matters to deal with.

“There’s everything from compliance, sponsorships and salary caps to overseas quotas and recruitment. It’s no exaggeration to say a lot of holiday time has been spent on the phone trying to do deals with agents and players. In many ways it has been what I have loved, but the constant pressure and stress has taken its toll too.

“When I was unwell a couple of years ago, I did begin to think that I couldn’t do this job forever, and during that time Neil Hudgell was brilliant and so supportive.

“I said to Neil a couple of years ago that it would be my last, but then I agreed to stay on. It is so hard to walk away from something you love.

“However, myself and Neil have sat and discussed what’s best for me and the club in the long term and I think we both feel this is now the best for both parties. It needs a fresh approach.

“Me and Neil have always been great friends and will always be so, but we can both see that things can benefit from new ideas and somebody new at the helm day to day.”

Over his decade as chief executive Smith has overseen five coaches in both Super League and Championship rugby, in Justin Morgan, Craig Sandercock, Chris Chester, Tim Sheens and now Tony Smith.

And he is confident that the current coach is capable of bringing the desired on-field success the club and supporters crave.

“The great thing about the job has been the committed, kind and talented people I have had the pleasure of working with, especially directors such as Peter May, Rob Crossland and the late Colin Hutton,” he said.

“One regret will be not being able to work alongside Tony Smith as he looks to build the foundations of a top Super League club from a playing perspective.

“I have a lot of faith in Tony, as does everyone here. I’ve made some great friends from my role at Rovers, from the players and coaching staff to others at the club and officials at other Super League clubs too.”

Having first joined KR in a role developing links between the club and local amateur sides, Smith says he will be happy to be a face in the stands, and intends to fulfil his Vice Presidents role at the RFL.

“The sport is in my blood and so is Hull Kingston Rovers so I will be continuing in my RFL role and I’ll be sat in the stands watching the team,” he said.

“To be honest, we sat down and confirmed that we’d announce that I was stepping down prior to last Friday’s game with Huddersfield, and it was the first time in a long time that I’d felt relaxed on game day.

“That just reflects the stresses that come with running a club and the pressures of competing in Super League. I think the change will be good for me.”

Owner Neil Hudgell said: “Mike is very similar to myself in that he is a lifelong Rovers fan and he has lived and breathed Hull KR for the past 10 years as chief executive.

“I can’t thank him enough for his dedication and support and the initiatives he has overseen and developed which have truly strengthened the club.

“Mike is very well respected and liked throughout the sport and he has been a constant at our club, building strong relationships with key people and organisations, whilst always putting Hull KR first.

“His experience, passion and dedication will be a big loss to us as a club.”

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