Swinton Lions Chairman Andy Mazey returns in his monthly column to preview the visit of Halifax, celebrate the success of player pathways and weigh in on the potential changes to the league structure.
As Andy Mazey sits to down to discuss this month’s Chairman’s Corner, it would be fair to say he’s in a much happier position.
In last month’s column, the Lions Chairman described the forthcoming month’s fixtures as ‘four cup finals’ in the race to survive the drop to League One, stating the ‘next games will ultimately define our season’.
One month on and five points better off, the Lions have twice moved off the bottom of the Championship table by beating relegation rivals Sheffield and Rochdale, which has given the Chairman fresh hope in the bid for survival.
“I’m happy with our current form and return from those four games. I’m particularly pleased for Stuart, our staff and the boys as I know just how hard they are all working and just how much it means to us all.”
For any team battling relegation, taking five points from a possible eight would be seen as an excellent improvement in form. However, Andy like most Swinton fans, knows that the return could and should have been greater for varying reasons.
“Let’s be honest it could and probably should have been more as the Barrow point at home was harsh on us in my eyes and a controversial penalty denied us of two points, not for the first time this season.
“For some real hard luck and adversity in the week leading up to the second Rochdale game, I honestly believe we would have backed up that fantastic Blackpool performance and beaten them again. However, with two wins and draw from the four games though we are now back in the mix and masters of our own destiny!”
Despite the improvement in Swinton’s recent performances, supporters can be forgiven for looking over their shoulders after the threat of relegation and administration, which almost derailed the team’s bid for survival in 2017.
Yet regardless of where the Lions finish this season, Chairman Andy Mazey reiterates his commitment to the club and dedication to achieving targets and implementing new structures at Swinton, regardless of the club’s position next season.
“As I have previously said, I committed to this club last September regardless of which division we would be in this year. No matter how this season plays out we will move forward in 2019 at a determined and sustainable pace.
“While we are completely focused on retaining our place in the Championship, this won’t be at all costs and should we have to go backwards at some stage to ultimately move forward long-term, then this board will not be deterred and we will do whatever it takes.
“We have achieved so much as a club in such a short space of time off the field and that’s credit to everyone associated – directors, volunteers and supporters all playing our part. We are all united not just to survive and keep the lights on but to move forward and put Swinton back where we belong in the higher echelons of this sport.”
The Swinton board has grown under Andy’s tenure as the club recruited a new Head of Communications & Media (Richard Heyes) and Commercial Directors (Pete Smith and John Coyne) to compliment the existing management team, something which the Managing Director at the S R Waite Group credits among his strongest achievements at the club.
“One of my biggest objectives was to implement a management structure and board worthy of a club with such a rich history and an off field team to rival any in the game. I believe we are well on the way to achieving this goal and some of my best signings of my tenure have been in the boardroom that is for sure.”
“It was always going to be a hard year on the field but I believe we are creating something special here at Swinton Lions with a long term vision and we have the right people in the boardroom with the required skill sets and proven business expertise to take this club forward.”
RISING THROUGH THE RANKS
Despite a tough season on the field, there has been a feel-good factor away from it with on-going positive developments in the Agecroft Project, further experience added at boardroom level and the introduction of an RFL approved Category 3 Academy, in partnership with The Rugby College.
Despite this being a longer-term project,the progress is clear to see with Andy revealing that two players from The Rugby College joined the first team to training alongside the squad with immediate effect, something which has pleased the Lions Chairman greatly.
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing local lads wearing our shirt and we are fortunate to have a Head Coach in Stuart Littler and Foundation and Academy Manager in Neil Hayden who also share these beliefs. It takes time but we are developing pretty much from scratch our player pathway here at Swinton. It is really encouraging for me to know we already have two guys ready to step up from the CAT3 Academy and train with our first grade and the feedback from Stuart has been really positive.
“The grass roots of the game is where it all begins and my personal passion for being involved in this sport has always centred around the development of youth and linking the professional game with its community roots. This is something as a sport we don’t do well enough in my opinion but it is a clear focus of this club now that’s for sure.”
STATE OF THE ROSES?
The Lions welcome in-form Halifax to Heywood Road this Sunday in a game that the club has dubbed the ‘Battle of the Roses’.
Fax have had an impressive season so far and currently sit fourth in the Championship table ahead of pre-season promotion favourites London Broncos and Leigh Centurions. Richard Marshall’s side have proved difficult to beat this season and can boast the second meanest defence in the league.
Swinton impressed at the MBI Shay Stadium in April but were ultimately put to the sword as two late tries from McGrath and Tyrer earned the home side victory, Despite the defeat, Andy was left impressed by the opponents.
“Halifax is a big club in this division with a fantastic fan base. I have a great deal of respect for Halifax and my relationship with their new chairman Mark Moore and his predecessor Michael Steele is really good. I look forward to catching up with them both this weekend and returning the warm hospitality they afforded us earlier this season.”
With both sides in good form heading towards this weekend, Andy is confident that the game will be a memorable one for supporters visiting Heywood Road on Sunday.
“The nature of this competition is that pretty much everyone is fighting for something and Halifax are going really well and are right in the mix for a top four spot so it will be tough. I do however believe we are becoming a far more consistent side with our recent performances and our form going into this one is good as you say so it’s certainly one not to miss and hopefully our supporters will turn out in numbers!”
Regards the billing for the weekend’s clash, would the Chairman support a county-level fixture similar to the State of Origin style series?
“One hundred percent, yes. Domestic rivalry can only serve to develop a winning culture in my opinion and this exists in several sports. Just look at cricket, every time the two counties play, especially in Twenty20, it brings with it a lot of hype and a packed-out ground ready to see if their respected County comes out on top.”
“I was fortunate to be a part of a Tri-County series-winning BARLA Lancashire ARLFC committee in 2016. We cleaned up at under 17s, 19s and open age levels and the pride all those young men got from wearing the county jerseys was a joy to see.”
‘THE SUPER 8’S BELONG TO THE RFL, NOT SUPER LEAGUE’
New Super League Chief Executive, Robert Elstone, was introduced to the media today
“I was rather surprised by the Super League announcement I have to say.
“Having sat in recent meetings with fellow Championship and League One club Chairmen and having also been part of the recent Super League, RFL, Championship and League One meeting recently when the vision of Super League was presented by Ian Lenagan, Eamon and the two Hull club chairmen, I actually came away with some hope for the future for the game of I’m honest.
Following comments made by Robert Elstone on Tuesday, the RFL quickly moved to deny that an ‘binding decisions’ had been made to competition structure, Andy confirms this.
“There was absolutely no agreement at that meeting or since that meeting in respect of any change to the present competition structure hence my surprise at this week’s developments.
“While I personally have no issue with Super League being masters of their own destiny from a commercial perspective and maximising opportunities and revenue, I do believe competition structures have a wider implication and all stakeholder opinions need to be heard and taken into consideration, not just those of the current top twelve positioned clubs. The Super 8’s belong to the RFL not Super League and competition structure is a governance issue I believe that should not be determined by any single group of stakeholders within a sport.
“I personally respect everyone who is investing time and money into their respective clubs and the sport of rugby league I do however concur with many of Gary Hetherington’s well-documented opinions specifically those relating to importance of strong governance in our sport which I believe the RFL are working hard to achieve.”
Written by Chris Bell
Watch Swinton Lions in action at Heywood Road on Sunday 17th June as the Lions face Halifax in the ‘Battle of the Roses’. Tickets are priced at £18 for adults, £13 for concessions and juniors have FREE Admission!
Associate Match Sponsor and Match Ball Sponsorship packages are available at great rates for the ‘Battle of the Roses’. Contact Steve Wild at email@example.com for further details.