THE Papa John’s Community Cup is an oft-maligned competition.

Firstly, its introduction coincided with the shortening of the league season, thereby depriving clubs of the income of two extra home league games.

Secondly, promises about having two home matches in the Papa John’s have often fallen foul because of numerous walkovers, and thirdly promises of matches against localised opponents have not been kept to, with West Yorkshire clubs often travelling either over the Pennines, up to Durham and Northumberland or into the Midlands.

However, perhaps criticism of the Papa John’s will be more muted where Bradford Salem, who were promoted to Regional Two North East earlier this month, are concerned.

As Ian Scott-Brown, league secretary of Counties One Yorkshire, said when he handed over the league trophy to Salem skipper Christian Baines in their clubhouse: “You need to thank Papa John’s.

“You won Yorkshire Division Two (2014-15) and then finished second from bottom (2021-22) in Yorkshire Division One, but because the leagues were re-structured from 14 teams to 12 to introduce the Papa John’s Cup, no-one was relegated, so you have Papa John’s to thank for that.”

Salem’s improvement over the last two seasons has been hugely impressive, having quickly gone from relegation fodder to getting into the regional leagues for the first time in 25 years.

They started the 2022-23 campaign slowly under then head coach Neil Spence, losing four of their first five league games.

But a narrow win at Huddersfield Laund Hill in mid-October ignited their season, and they were only beaten in five of their final 17 games, finishing sixth in the table.

And under new head coach Bob Hood, they have been largely superb throughout the 2023-24 campaign, despite an early wobble.

They were well beaten in their first two home games, against West Leeds and Wetherby, before a defeat at Hullensians in late October looked to have curtailed any hopes of going up early on.

But a gutsy 8-3 home win over high-flying Keighley at the start of November kickstarted a remarkable run of 15 straight victories until the end of the season, which saw them pip Wetherby to promotion and the title by just one point.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Salem skipper Christian Baines (purple and white) and his team-mates had to fight so hard to claim the Counties One Yorkshire title this season.Salem skipper Christian Baines (purple and white) and his team-mates had to fight so hard to claim the Counties One Yorkshire title this season. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

And Scott-Brown wanted to ensure the players, for all their incredible on-field efforts, did not forget that this historic season was down to everyone involved at the club.

He told them: “You should also remember to thank the coaches who have helped you during the season, the people who clean the changing rooms, the people who mark the pitches, the caterers and the sponsors, who all help a hell of a lot.”

For Salem now, the focus is purely on the Papa John’s Community Cup, aside from their Yorkshire Shield final against Keighley at Doncaster RUFC next month.

Salem had a bye in the first round of the Papa John’s, so start their attempts to win the competition with a last-16 tie at Wensleydale in the Counties One North Plate this Saturday.

The winner will be away to Wigton or Wetherby in the quarter-finals.

Keighley are already out of the Papa John’s competition, losing their Counties One Championship last-32 clash 24-10 at Widnes on Saturday.

Baildon had a bye into the last-16 of the Counties Two North Plate competition, where they will visit Yarnbury this weekend.

Neither Bradford & Bingley nor Cleckheaton are taking part in this year’s Papa John’s Community Cup.