CUP DERBY WIN FOR LIONS PRESERVES UNBEATEN START!

SWINTON LIONS 28 OLDHAM 12

IAN RIGG at Heywood Road, Sunday 25 February 2025

Another sparkling performance from the Lions under the floodlights gave them a win which powered them into the fifth round of the Challenge Cup and another home tie, this time against Sheffield Eagles on the weekend of 9/10 March.

Oldham might be favourites to get promotion into the Championship at the end of the season and recruited well, but were no match for the Lions in this encounter. Jordan Turner dropped the Lions kick-off and from the scrum move inside the Oldham ten Dec Patton sent out a lovely short pass for Dan Abram to race over for the opening try on the left and this was his five hundredth point in a Lions shirt and Patton added the conversion. Patton added a penalty goal shortly afterwards when Elijah Taylor made an error at the play the ball. Oldham then had a chance, but Matty Wildie could not control the ball near the line. The Lions went further ahead when Patton put up a towering kick into the night sky, but Mo Agoro knocked the ball on when it came down and it bounced back towards the Lions attack and Jayden Hatton took a pass to score by the posts which Patton converted. The Lions defence was tested a few times just after this try and penalties also aided them into a good position. With minutes left to half time a Lions handling error gave Oldham a golden opportunity and good position for the experienced Danny Craven to score on the left and Jamie Ellis converted much against the run of play.

More penalties against the Lions put the visitors in a good position and Craig Kopczak was held up over the line on forty-three minutes and then another chance came when Jack Johnson looked like he would score in the corner but a super tackle from Jake Spedding took him into touch. More penalties against the Lions kept Oldham camped on the line but the watertight defence was not letting them pass and Pat Moran went close but again a ball handling error near the line. The Lions went further ahead on fifty-seven minutes when a kick towards the posts was chased by Lewis Hall and he won the race to score under the posts and Patton tagged on the conversion. The Lions went short from the kick off and the defence was forced into touch. The try of the match was scored on sixty-one minutes when Matty Chrimes offloaded a nice pass to Spedding in the clear and he raced ninety metres rounding Oldham full-back Logan Astley twenty metres out with the referee Cameron Worsley keeping pace with him to score under the posts with Patton again adding the conversion. Patton then added another penalty when Oldham were caught offside and on seventy minutes Ted Chapelhow crashed over for Oldham with Ellis adding the conversion. During the try celebration Chapelhow pushed a Lions defender, and the official sent him to the sinbin. The Lions finished strongly camped on the Oldham line, but they were already through to the next round.

LIONS
1 Dan Abram
2 Matty Chrimes
3 Jake Spedding
4 Jayden Hatton
5 Rhys Williams
6 Dec Patton
7 Jordy Gibson
13 Mikey Wood
14 Josh Eaves
10 Gav Bennion
11 Gav Rodden
12 Mitch Cox
16 Lewis Hall

Subs (all used)
9 George Roby
15 Daniel Spencer-Tonks
24 Jordan Case
21 Andy Badrock

Tries: Abram (2), Hatton (13), Hall (57), Spedding (61)
Goals: Patton 6/6

OLDHAM
1 Logan Astley
5 Mo Agoro
24 Ben O’Keefe
3 Jordan Turner
23 Jack Johnson
6 Danny Craven
7 Jamie Ellis
16 Owen Farnworth
9 Matty Wildie
18 Jay Chapelhow
11 Joe Wardle
12 Adam Lawton
13 Elijah Taylor

Subs (all used)
8 Craig Kopczak
10 Pat Moran
15 Josh Johnson
22 Ted Chapelhow

Tries: Craven (38), T Chapelhow (70)
Goals: Ellis 2/2

Sin-bin: T Chapelhow (71) Pushing

Penalty count: 7-14
Half-time: 8-6
Referee: Cameron Worsley
Attendance: 746

LIONS PAY TRIBUTE TO ITS FANS’ TRUST

Swinton Supporters’ Trust given headline status for big cup tie

With our Betfred Challenge Cup 4th round local derby against Oldham looming this coming Sunday, this is an opportune time to highlight the invaluable contribution of our Supporters’ Trust.

For the past 22 years the Trust has provided direct and indirect financial input, and all manner of practical volunteer assistance.

In specific reference to the Oldham cup-tie, the Trust even stepped in a short notice to sponsor the match.

If you’re a Swinton Lions fan who currently isn’t a member (at a mere £2 per month by the way), then please consider signing up as soon as possible!

Below is a broad outline of what the Trust stands for, and the fantastic work they do:-

The Trust’s Mission

* To give the supporters a direct say in the policy making mechanism at the club, by offering financial and practical support in exchange for a shareholding and seats on the board.
* To promote links with the Swinton and wider community i.e. through the local authority, the amateur game, schools, and businesses.
* To provide a long-term vision in an effort to galvanise all Swinton supporters past and present.

How we do it:

* The Trust is represented at club board level by Trust Chairman, Stephen Parker.
* Trust Members and Trust Board officials carry out numerous and essential voluntary roles around the club and match days, providing valuable workforce to the Club.
* The Trust produce, publish and sell the official match day programme, and our volunteers sell Golden Gamble tickets at Heywood Road.
* The Trust are responsible for the management of the match-day merchandise shop for Club and Trust and online auction page, and assisting match ticket sales.

Recent activities:

* The purchase of vital medical equipment and supplies for the 2024 season, supporting our medical staff and providing them with the appropriate items to provide first class care.
* The Trust will continue to cover the cost of the Men’s team away coach travel in 2024, as in previous years, alongside provision of analysis software for use by the coaching staff and players.
* A refurbished Trust website, which now includes the Lions Tales Heritage Project, and an extensive statistics archive detailing match results team line ups and scoring records going back to 1877!
* We recently hosted our annual quiz night, hosted by our friends at Folly Lane ARLFC. Attended by teams representing the supporters organisations of several other clubs alongside Swinton fans and also a team from the club Board, it was a great night of friendship and networking.

Look out for new fundraising events which include another of the very successful Cheese and Wine Evenings and Bingo Events.

These activities are made possible via the subscriptions of members alongside proceeds from Trust events and merchandise sales.

For more information and to join please visit http://www.lionstrust.co.uk/

LIONS IN CUP SUCCESS OVER GALLANT WEST HULL

Betfred Challenge Cup – Third Round

SWINTON LIONS 50 WEST HULL 6

IAN RIGG at Heywood Road, Sunday 11 February 2024

A ten try performance saw Swinton progress into the next round and a mouthwatering tie against Oldham. West Hull played some entertaining Rugby and never have up from minute one. The visitors were on the attack straight from the kick off when the home side were judged offside with the very first kick of the game and put some good pressure on the Swinton line in the first set. Dan Abram put Swinton in the lead in the fifth minute when he took a lovely short pass from Brad Hammond to score on the right and Abram converted. West Hull had some more pressure on the line before Gav Rodden crossed for Swinton only to lose the ball over the line, but they did go further ahead on twenty minutes when Andy Badrock broke down the left to score by the posts and Abram converted again. Ben Bradshaw thought he had scored under the posts for West Hull after a nice pass from Elliott Jones, but it was judged forward. However, a couple of minutes later they won the ball back and some good pressure on the line saw Ryan Wilson score by the posts and he also added the conversion. From the restart the ball was lost, and Daniel Spencer-Tonks reacted quickly to collect the ball and score by the posts with Abram adding the conversion.

Swinton got two early penalties just after the restart and this put them in a good position for Hammond to slip the pass for Abram to score by the corner, but he was unable to convert. Hammond then scored a try of his own finishing some good pressure on the right, but Abram again was off the mark. Richard Lepori added the next try finishing off another good move down the right but again no conversion. Playmaker Josh Eaves scored under the posts just after the hour when Abram made a break from his own twenty to feed him to race away to score and the conversion was on target as the visitor’s defence was under constant pressure. Jack Stevens added the next try on sixty-five minutes when Abram spotted a gap in the defence to send him in from short range and again the conversion was good. Winger Rhys Williams scored the nineth try with nine minutes left after a penalty in the final twenty and the ball flowed through seven sets of hands as he went in at the corner. The visitors were still giving it all and had a good chance to score with four minutes left, but the Swinton defence held out. The final try came just seconds from the hooter when Stevens and Joe Purcell combined well down the left to put Williams in at the corner, but Abram was unable to convert from the touchline, but praise must go to the young West Hull side for giving it their all in an impressive performance.

LIONS
1 Dan Abram
25 Richard Lepori
28 Brad Hammond
21 Andy Badrock
5 Rhys Williams
18 Jack Stevens
7 Jordy Gibson
13 Mikey Wood
14 Josh Eaves
10 Gav Bennion
11 Gav Rodden
22 Cole Oakley
17 Matty Fletcher

Subs (all used)
23 Joe Purcell
8 Liam Cooper
15 Daniel Spencer-Tonks
12 Mitch Cox

Tries: Abram (5,44), Badrock (20), Spencer-Tonks (37), Hammond (51), Lepori (59), Eaves (61), Stevens (65), Williams (71,80)

Goals: Abram 5/10

WEST HULL
1 Mason Palmer
2 Keiron Masike
3 AJ Chambers
4 Leon Stewart
5 Jay Hampshire
6 Josh Wood
7 Elliott Jones
14 Zeus Silk
9 Nathan Powley
18 Oscar Ellerington
20 Ryan Wilson
12 Benn Arbon
13 Ryan Steen

Subs (all used)
15 Ben Bradshaw
10 Robbie Jones
16 Kieran Welburn
17 Scott Howlett

Tries: Wilson (34)
Goals: Wilson 1/1

Penalty count: 10-8
Half-time: 18-6
Referee: Tara Jones
Attendance: 441

Brad swaps Cairns for Swinton!

Hammond signs one year contract with Lions

We are delighted to confirm the signing of Brad Hammond on a permanent contract which extends for the duration of the 2024 season. Brad has been on trial with the Lions, during which time he’s not only impressed in training, but also played well and scored a try against St Helens in the recent friendly.

Brad is a 21 years old centre and is the son of former Widnes player Karle Hammond. He has spent the past two years playing in Australia, with Queensland outfits Wynnum Manly Seagulls, and Cairns club, Northern Pride.

Brad said, “I wanted to come over to the UK and look for an opportunity. I was offered a trial here at Swinton Lions, and it’s been a great pre-season with the squad. I’m delighted to have now signed, with lots of footy to be played, with the cup games continuing and then of course looking forward to the start of the League campaign.”

Swinton Head Coach Alan Kilshaw added, “We’ve been really impressed with Brad during pre-season. It’s great to see a player back themselves, take a chance, and bring themselves over from Australia looking for an opportunity. He’s worked incredibly hard during his trial period, fitting in easily with the group. I’m delighted to welcome him officially into the squad and we are all excited to see him on the field.”

Brad has been allocated the 28 squad number and is available to sponsor. Please email [email protected] for more information.

LIONS PROGRESS TO LAST EIGHT OF 1895 CUP

SWINTON LIONS 18 WIDNES VIKINGS 6

IAN RIGG at Heywood Road, Sunday 4 February 2024

The Lions progressed into the quarter finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup with a superb defensive effort which allowed Vikings only one try in the final minute of the first half. Time and time again the visitors peppered the Lions line, but rock-solid defence held them out. It was the visitors with the early pressure, but it was the Lions who scored first when Dec Patton sent a lovely angled kick towards the left corner and Rhys Williams got past Mike Butt to touch down, but Patton could not convert from the touchline. More Vikings pressure on the Lions line and more great defence forcing a ball handling error and even when a kick was sent to the corner for Butt, Dan Abram won the race to clear the line. Gav Bennion went close on twenty-three minutes being held up on the last tackle before the Lions forced another Vikings attempt into touch as they went for the corner. George Roby was sent to the sin-bin for use of the knees in the tackle ten minutes from the break and with the extra man Liam Kirk was held up a few minutes later, but with seconds to go before the half time hooter Vikings won a penalty in the Lions ten and the ball moved swiftly left for Kieran Dixon to cross in the corner but he could not convert his own try.

Vikings took the lead when Dixon added a fifteen-metre penalty goal for a ball steal on forty-eight minutes. Two more chances for the Vikings followed with Sam Wilde knocking on five metres out and then Dixon broke to feed Tom Gilmore, but he could not hold the pass. From this scrum pressure the Lions went back into the lead when Jake Spedding combined with Matty Chrimes after a kick through and the winger crashed in at the corner. Patton’s conversion from the touchline looked like it was failing, and he was being jeered by some of the crowd, but it seemed to pick up power and went straight between the posts much to the amusement of the home fans. Patton then added a penalty goal when Josh Eaves was dumped in a tackle on the hour and three minutes later it was Patton who made the score safe when he kicked towards the posts, and it deflected off a Vikings player for Jordy Gibson to collect the ball and score under the posts and Patton added the simple conversion. Butt then made a break down the right wing and the tackle into touch sparked a fight which saw Eaves and Jordan Johnstone sent to the sin-bin. Vikings then had another chance nine minutes from time, but Mitch Cox stopped the danger. And other Lions attack four minutes from time forced a goal-line drop-out and from this Gav Rodden was held up and then they forced yet another drop-out and this time they lost control of the ball putting Vikings on the attack again, but once again great defence held them out as the final hooter sounded.

LIONS
1 Dan Abram
2 Matty Chrimes
3 Jake Spedding
4 Jayden Hatton
5 Rhys Williams
6 Dec Patton
7 Jordy Gibson
10 Gav Bennion
14 Josh Eaves
20 Jack Houghton
11 Gav Rodden
12 Mitch Cox
16 Lewis Hall

Subs (all used)
9 George Roby
8 Liam Cooper
21 Andy Badrock
24 Jordan Case

Tries: Williams (9), Chrimes (55), Gibson (63)
Goals: Patton 3/4
Sin-bin: Roby (30) Use of knees, Eaves (70) Fighting

VIKINGS
24 Lloyd Roby
20 Mike Butt
3 Matt Fleming
4 Joe Edge
5 Kieran Dixon
6 Joe Lyons
7 Tom Gilmore
22 Ant Walker
14 Jordan Johnstone
8 Callum Field
11 Rhodri Lloyd
19 Sam Wilde
13 Nick Gregson

Subs (all used)
9 Matty Fozard
15 Liam Kirk
16 Max Roberts
28 Tom Whitehead

Tries: Dixon (40)
Goals: Dixon 1/2
Sin-bin: Johnstone (70) Fighting

Penalty count: 6-12
Half-time: 4-4
Referee: Michael Smaill
Attendance: 1,006

LIONS SCORE 40 IN SOLID OPENER

NORTH WALES CRUSADERS 12 SWINTON LIONS 40

IAN RIGG at Stadiwm CSM, Sunday 28 January 2024

Swinton Lions got their 1895 Cup campaign off the mark with a good victory over Crusaders on a windy afternoon at Colwyn Bay. Crusaders had early pressure on the Lions line after a penalty but lost the ball close to the line and on three minutes Declan Patton kicked a forty-twenty and from the pressure on the line Josh Eaves went over by the posts and Patton converted. Crusaders then had two good chances straight after and both fell to Kieran Taylor out on the right but on both attempts the ball was lost. The Lions went further ahead on fifteen minutes when Rhys Williams, Matty Chrimes and Jake Spedding combined to send Dan Abram in by the posts and Patton converted again. Carl Forster was sent to the sinbin for a trip on twenty-six minutes. From the resulting penalty the Lions went downfield and added their third try when Jack Houghton went close but from the play the ball George Roby went over, and Patton converted again. Jono Smith was sent off by the referee just after the conversion was taken for alleged foul language. The Lions fourth try came seven minutes from the break when Mitch Cox broke clear to feed Chrimes and he raced forty metres to score in the corner and Patton added a curling conversion from the touchline. Patton and Jayden Hatton held up Ryan Ellis with a couple of minutes of the half left and in the dying seconds an incident at a scrum was put on report.

A good start for the Lions in the second half with lots of pressure on the line with the best chance coming to Williams on fifty minutes but the ball just ran away from him as he went for the corner. Patton then added a try four minutes later after a break by Lewis Hall and he also added then conversion. Forster was then held up for Crusaders before Cox scored on the right to give him his one hundredth point for the Lions, but Patton could not convert this one. Crusaders had a good spell midway through the half and this paid off on sixty-seven minutes when Pat Ah Van crashed in under the posts and Owain Abel added the conversion. Abram grabbed his second with five minutes left when Jordy Gibson broke through to feed the ball to him and Patton again converted. From the kick off Chrimes could not hold the bounce of the ball and from the pressure near the line Ben Evans went over on his debut for the try with Abel converting. The Lions finished the game strongly on the Crusaders line and move on to next week’s home tie against Widnes in good spirits.

LIONS
1 Dan Abram
2 Matty Chrimes
3 Jake Spedding
4 Jayden Hatton
5 Rhys Williams
6 Declan Patton
7 Jordy Gibson
10 Gav Bennion
14 Josh Eaves
13 Mikey Wood
11 Gav Rodden
12 Mitch Cox
16 Lewis Hall

Subs (all used)
9 George Roby
20 Jack Houghton
24 Jordan Case
17 Matty Fletcher

Tries: Eaves (4), Abram (15,75), Roby (28), Chrimes (33), Patton (54), Cox (59)
Goals: Patton 6/7

CRUSADERS
1 Owain Abel
16 Jack Holmes
3 Kieran Taylor
4 Matty Reid
5 Pat Ah Van
7 Toby Hughes
26 Reece Bushell
8 Ben Evans
19 Joe Baldwin
10 Chris Barratt
11 Ryan Ellis
12 Matt Unsworth
13 Carl Forster

Subs (all used)
9 Patrick Rainford
15 Shaun Costello
27 Jono Smith
22 Adam Carr

Tries: Ah Van (67), Evans (78)
Goals: Abel 2/2

Sin-bin: Forster (26) Tripping
Dismissal: Smith (28) Foul Language

Penalties: 9-6
Half-time: 0-24
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas
Attendance: 520

LIONS IMPRESS AT SAINTS IN FINAL WARM-UP

IAN RIGG at the Totally Wicked Stadium, Saturday 20 January 2024

ST HELENS 18 SWINTON LIONS 28

The new look Lions put in a great performance against a young St Helens team in cold damp conditions, and gained a well-earned victory in this warm-up game.

The Lions took the lead after five minutes when a move straight off the training ground saw Jordy Gibson put in a nice kick towards the line and his half back partner Declan Patton was on hand to collect the ball and score with Dan Abram adding the conversion. Four minutes later they were in again when this time a Patton pass on the left found Jayden Hatton and he went in at the corner with Abram adding the conversion from the touchline. Andy Badrock then went close from another kick through on the left, but the ball raced away from him. There was a skirmish on nineteen minutes, but referee Marcus Griffiths soon had it sorted out.

There was another chance for Badrock on twenty-two minutes from another kick through, but Jon Bennison just won the foot race to kick it dead. From the restart more pressure from the Lions and another try when the passing movement finished with Matty Chrimes scoring in the right corner, but Abram could not convert this one. Saints had a rare attack five minutes later when it looked like Owen Dagnall might score in the corner on the last tackle, but great defence stopped him. Hatton scored his second try eleven minutes from the break after some good centre play by Badrock but again Abram could not convert. Saints did get on the scoreboard in the dying seconds of the half when Brett Bailey crashed over from short range after some good pressure and George Whitby converted.

Both teams made many changes at the break, and it was Saints who scored next when Ben Davies sent a low kick towards the line and a couple of Lions defenders lost their footing on the surface and the ball bounced nicely for Jonny Vaughan to collect and score with Whitby again converting. The Lions were not lying down and Chrimes added his second try on fifty-six minutes scoring on the right near the corner, but Gibson could not add the conversion from the touchline. Six minutes later trialist Brad Hammond scored on the right with a direct run for the line but this time the conversion was missed by Lewis Hall. Saints added their third try on sixty-six minutes when Ciaran Nolan went over by the posts with an impressive effort and Whitby again added the conversion. Badrock almost got a try with seven minutes left after a nice pass from Joe Purcell, but he was tackled five metres out.

Both Coaches were very positive with their comments after the game as it had been a good run out for both sides, and they had taken plenty from it. The Lions now move on to the 1895 Cup against North Wales Crusaders at Colwyn Bay next weekend.

TEAMS

LIONS:
Abram, Chrimes, Spedding, Badrock, Hatton, Patton, Gibson, Wood, Eaves, Bennion, Rodden, Cox, Hall. Subs: Porter, Cooper, Fletcher, Stevens, Houghton, Oakley, Purcell, Case, Lepori, Hammond.

Tries: Patton (5), Hatton (9,29), Chrimes (23.56), Hammond (62)
Goals: Abram 2/4, Gibson 0/1, Hall 0/1

SAINTS:
Bennison, Dagnall, Hurrell, Sambou, Robertson, B.Davies, Whitby, Stephens, Burns, Buckley, Vaughan, Braddish, Royle. Subs: Will, Nolan, Marsh, Dean, Bailey, Sinclair, Carty, J.Davies, McGucken, Frost.

Tries: Bailey (40), Vaughan (44), Nolan (66)
Goals: Whitby 3/3

Referee: Marcus Griffiths
Half-Time: 6-20
Penalties: 12-10

LIONESS MIA TO TAKE UP SUPER LEAGUE OPPORTUNITY

Star player Mia Atherton joins Wigan Warriors

Swinton Lionesses can formally confirm that our outstanding prospect Mia Atherton will be leaving us to take up an opportunity with Wigan Warriors Women’s Super League club.

We would like to thank Mia for her commitment to Swinton Lionesses since we launched the team three years ago. She started with our championship winning Under 16s team, and then had two highly successful campaigns with our open age team.

Mia was selected for England Community Lions whilst with the Lionesses and was voted player of the tour on their 2023 trip to Serbia.

Mia played a few games last year for the Warriors Under 19s team whilst on dual registration from the Lionesses, which has led to Wigan offering her this opportunity.

Everyone at Swinton wishes Mia the best of luck, who will always be welcome back at the Lionesses!

YOU ARE OUR 19th LION!

THE SWINTON LIONS “19 CLUB”

WE WANT SWINTON LIONS FANS TO BE OUR 19TH PLAYER!

Membership details

• The Swinton Lions 2024 number 19 squad number will not be allocated to a player, but instead it will be assigned to our “19 Club” members. You are our 19th man!

• “19 Club” members will receive a 19% discount on the purchase of one replica 2024 shirt. (This discount may be applied retrospectively if you’ve already purchased a replica shirt voucher). A number “19” may be optionally added to the back of the shirt at cost.

• Receive a personalised “19 Club” membership certificate, signed by the Lions’ Head Coach and captain. Accompanied by a membership card.

• Exclusive “19 Club” official Lions merchandise, available only to members.

• The Swinton Lions Player of Month will be voted for exclusively by “19 Club” members throughout the 2024 season.

• The Player of Month award to be presented by a “19 Club” member on the pitch prior to a home game (member selected at random via a draw).

• “19 Club” members to be entered into an end of season draw to win the No.19 playing grade shirt, signed by the squad.

• “19 Club” members to receive ticketing priority for any club event, prior to general sale.

• “19 Club” member informal get-togethers to be arranged with coaches and players.

• 19% off a “19 Club” member’s match day corporate hospitality ticket, if booking for more than one person.

• 19% discount on away match travel for “19 Club” members, when such organisation is under the jurisdiction of the club.

• For under 16s members, be entered into a monthly draw to be a home matchday mascot.

Annual Membership cost – £19

SEASON & MATCH TICKETS

NEW YEAR UPDATE FROM LIONS’ CEO

NEW YEAR UPDATE FROM THE CEO

At the beginning of this brand new year, this is an opportune time for me to present to Swinton Lions supporters what will hopefully be received as a comprehensive update on club matters.

The Board is very conscious of the fact that probably the most common criticism thrown our way is the infrequency of club updates, and going into 2024 this is something we will rectify. All I can say is thank you for your patience and continued support so far, and we now believe that recently added extra resource will enable us to deliver more frequent updates in line with the rightful expectations of the fans.

The club relies heavily on volunteer support, and whilst this is greatly valued and imperative to our overall operation, we have to be respectful of the fact that these volunteers have day jobs and families. However, taking our social media output as a prime example, we hope that you’ve already seen a dramatic increase in quality output, and a willingness in particular by our new Head Coach Alan Kilshaw and the players to be really proactive in engaging with our media team.

Some of you may have met Mark Robinson who has been employed part-time as an integral member of our Foundation team. Mark is clearly very knowledgeable about the sport, but we also realised recently that he is very skilled in social media matters, and you will have seen some of his graphic designs already without perhaps realising who has created them. I’m now pleased to report that Mark has now formally joined our media team as well, which gives us greatly increased capacity to produce much more professional looking and more frequent content. Mark will be working alongside Steve Johnson and Terry Gorman to produce structured and regular content, which will also see the imminent return of our popular newsletter, The Lions’ Roar, as well utilisation of other platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram. Director Barry McGuinness will oversee our social media operations and Riggy will continue to look after match days, whilst I’ll also be involved in preparing some of the written output.

We are also conscious that we haven’t yet reported back on the Fan Survey which went out at the end of the 2023 season. The response was superb, with over 300 fans taking part – which is clearly a significant percentage of our core support, giving us confidence that the sample is truly representative of your views. We will be presenting a summary of the findings at our official 2024 Season Launch which will take place from 7pm on Friday 26 January at Heywood Road, followed by a written summary the week after on our social media platforms. Incidentally the Season Launch will include confirmation of our Squad Numbers, and fingers crossed we will have 2024 replica shirts available that night.

Speaking of replica shirts this deserves some explanation. As you’ll be aware we now have a new teamwear partner in Patrick, with whom we have agreed a four-year deal. If you’ve managed to purchase any Patrick branded team wear, we hope you’ll agree that the quality is excellent. Whilst we did have to go through careful commercial negotiations with Patrick which delayed matters slightly, we have to confess that the pre-Christmas unavailability of replica shirts was mainly down to Swinton Lions. But the reason for this is very important and we hope you understand. In these days of rising costs, including the recruitment of what for us is a very expensive squad, coupled with the near disintegration of central funding, we simply had to vastly increase playing shirt sponsorship deals – which of course involves the application of logos to the shirt. This process took time, but it was an absolute financial necessity. Thankfully however we have managed to nearly double our 2023 income. We therefore wish to thank all of our sponsors for their understanding of our position and working with us for the good of the Lions. Glossop Caravans and our other primary pre-existing sponsors Daisymill Technologies, Camway Installations, Seed Architects, Primus Traffic Management, Roodsafe, Roadflash and Harrison Drury have been extremely supportive and generous, as have new high profile sponsors Vesta Care (UK) Ltd, Regin Group and Heyrod Construction. We also increased the value of our player sponsorship packages for 2024, and again we thank all of the renewing sponsors and fresh sponsors, who you’ll now see listed alongside their respective players on our website. In fact, we still have the odd gap for fans’ player kit sponsorship at just £75, and so if you can help, please email [email protected]

It’s important that we acknowledge and look after our sponsors, and to this end we recently appointed director Andy Unwin as our Partnerships Director. Part of Andy’s remit as a director is to maintain regular contact with our sponsors, ensuring that we are delivering on our side of the commercial agreements in place, and ensuring that they feel valued members of the Lions family.

An exciting initiative has been the launch of our Lions’ Business Club, which meets monthly at various venues in rotation across Manchester. It’s free to get involved, and is a great chance for networking as well as for learning more about the Lions and hopefully getting involved as part of our family. We have already engaged almost 50 businesses in this way, as well as a number of charities. The next meeting is scheduled for early February at a venue in central Manchester, so keep an eye on our social media platforms for more information.

It’s often forgotten that at the root of all of our operations, be it with players, staff, sponsors, other clubs etc we have had to work hard to create personal relationships based on trust and respect – these things rarely just fall into your lap. Examples are our superb working relationship with Sale FC, and also our brilliant friendship with St Helens, which will surely reap dividends on the pitch in 2024.

Speaking of Sale FC, we have agreed in principle an extension to our lease at Heywood Road until the end of the 2025 season, with an option to extend further into 2026. This gives a level of continuity and security that we’ve not seen since our Station Road days and we are very grateful to our friends at Sale for their willingness to work with us on a collaborative basis, which far exceeds that of a normal landlord-tenant relationship.

Another initiative that we are about to launch is the “19 Club”. The concept is that our fans are our 19th Lion, and squad number 19 will be reserved for this purpose (and the shirt itself will be raffled amongst members at the season end). However, I want to emphasise that the 19 Club is intended to give something back to fans via incentives and discounts. There is a cost to join – £19 in fact! – but this is easily recoverable if advantage is taken of the various benefits of membership. Finer detail will be released tomorrow.

Moving to matters on the field, which of course is at the core of everything we do. It’s old news that Allan Coleman, Tom Wood and Connor Farrell have moved on to pastures new, but as a club we thank them for all their efforts for the Lions and they will always remain personal friends as well as friends of the club. This thanks is of course also extended to our outgoing players, particularly Rhodri, Butty, Nick, Joey, Louis and Kenny and others, who put in so much effort in a Swinton shirt. We have of course since recruited Alan Kilshaw as Head Coach, and he has brought with him an exceptionally strong back-room team including Darren Abram, Paul Anderson and Miles Greenwood.

On recruitment we are all feeling very excited, and if the likes of Rhys Williams, Declan Patton and George Roby can produce their best form then we are in for a treat. Then we have Dan Spencer-Tonks, Mikey Wood and Jack Houghton adding some real steel to our forward line. Matty Chrimes and Matty Fletcher are also great additions, and certainly not forgetting some highly promising younger players in the shape of Jack Stevens, Cole Oakley and Joe Purcell. We were also delighted to retain 13 of our best players from 2023, whilst Sasha, Rachael, Dougie, Norman, Chesney and doctors Joe and Ben provide stability and continuity amongst our medical and backroom staff.

As a Board we have been very impressed by the way our new Head Coach Alan Kilshaw immediately settled into the role and began to implement his own ideas and style. We will certainly go into the 2024 season as a very fit and organised team, and I definitely don’t see us taking a backward step regardless of the prevailing scoreline! Obviously the usual doubters in the RL media will write us off before a ball is kicked, but I’m more than confident that we will prove a handful for every opposition we come across.

I can’t let this opportunity pass without paying tribute to the work of the Lions’ Foundation, which is making giant strides and is far outstripping anything we have ever done in the history of the club in terms of community development. Our Development Director Damian Ridpath is doing a magnificent job, ably assisted by outstanding coaches Gareth Pratt, Dougie Owen and Mark Robinson. We are now viewed as market leaders in several areas by the RFL, and if for example you managed to get to Leigh East last weekend you cannot fail to have been impressed by the way our new community Swinton Lions under 16s team defeated their Leigh Leopards counterparts. RFL rules currently dictate that we aren’t permitted to run an Academy, but it hasn’t prevented us from planting the seeds of our own player talent pathway. As well as an under 16s outfit we also have an under 18s team under our umbrella, with plans fully underway to launch younger age groups as well. I emphasise also that this programme is all about player development, and is undertaken in close collaboration with local community clubs, and not at their expense in terms of player recruitment.

Our women’s team, the Lionesses, is another fantastic success story having been launched by Zoom in the middle of the Covid crisis. The Lionesses will find themselves in a re-structured League 1 in 2024, and once their fixtures are confirmed we intend to organise some double-headers at Heywood Road. Head Coach Steve Thirkell has assembled a top rate coaching and backroom staff, and the Lionesses are sure to be strong contenders for the league 1 title in 2024.

We are also implementing a host of other community projects across Swinton, Salford, Manchester, Trafford and Bolton, all of which deserves a special report of its own, and we’ll produce a summary at some point over the next couple of weeks.

The challenges of running a semi-professional Rugby League club at Championship level in this day and age are immense. I’ve already touched on the dramatic reduction in central funding, which leaves us £150,000 short of what we received in 2021. In the meantime, we have not only won promotion from League 1, but followed this up with a tenth place finish in the Championship in 2023. In the same period costs have risen sharply, particularly player costs, and it is a constant daily challenge for the Board to meet this significant financial challenge. It will probably surprise you to learn that on average, over the course of a full year, it costs in excess of £10,000 PER WEEK to meet our obligations and maintain our current status. We aren’t just a Rugby League club, we are decent sized business in every respect, playing in a highly regulated sport, with all the challenges of a regular business aside from our Rugby League playing activities. With such eye-watering numbers to contend with you’ll fully understand why we value our Supporters Trust, the Pridebuilder scheme, our season ticket holders and our regular supporters. But if only we could double our gates we would be in an entirely different place!

This brings me briefly to the fresh challenges brought about by the IMG grading system, which recently saw us narrowly miss out on being graded as a “B” club rather than a “C”. We recognise that the grading system is designed to improve standards and in that respect we are happy to meet the challenges ahead. Certainly, one area which represents a relatively easy hit is to improve our social media presence, which brings me back to the comments I made earlier. But I’ll deal with IMG and the grading system in more detail at a future date.

Finally, in the humble opinions of Stuart our chairman, and myself personally, our Board is doing an utterly outstanding job in maintaining semi-professional Championship Rugby League at Swinton Lions, so we do find it a little disheartening to read some of the personal and shared criticism thrown our way (the unconstructive type). If you do have any concerns please contact the club directly, as we will always engage with individual fans, in private if preferred.

Hopefully there will be something of interest in this update, but if you want clarification on any other matters then the [email protected] email address will enable us to direct you to the best person to deal with your enquiry.

Thank you as always for your continued Support. Come on you Lions!

Steve