A NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE FROM THE LIONS’ BOARD
31 December 2019
The Swinton Lions board wishes to sign off 2019 with a new year’s message for all supporters and followers of the club.
Can we begin, on behalf of the Board of Swinton Lions & our players and staff, by wishing all of our supporters and sponsors a healthy and successful 2020.
Over the past 30 years or so at Swinton, some might say more, we have become used to dealing with significant challenges, and the year just coming to a close has certainly seen us ride yet another roller coaster. We had an indifferent start (results-wise) to our 2019 league campaign, but then came a tremendous run of on-field success, which culminated in a 9th place finish – our highest league position in some 21 years, and not bad for the 14th ranked centrally funded team in the division.
Matty Ashton became an overnight hit, scoring 30 tries to become the first Swinton player in 55 years to top the try-scoring charts, and he also carried off the Championship Player of the Year award. He goes to Warrington with our very best wishes, a club we welcome to Heywood Road on 25th January in a prestigious pre-season friendly.
The people who deserve the Lions’ share of the credit for that superb league finish are our players and coaching staff. We have a tremendous team spirit at Swinton Lions, which is based on good coaching, work ethic, commitment to the cause, togetherness, and giving youth a chance. We are building a culture at our club, a culture that we hope will take us a long way. The Board therefore pays tribute to our Head Coach Stuart Littler, and his staff Allan, Lindsey, Dougie, Chris, Norman, Colin, Sasha, Alan and Chris, all of whom have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty to the club.
The second half of the season was set against deep political rumblings, and the proposal to re-brand the team as Manchester Lions. This proposal came up against a strongly mixed reaction, and it’s fair to say that there wasn’t universal acceptance from Swinton supporters. But whether it’s a gamble to stay as Swinton Lions and to continue our 153 year old story without a name change, or whether it would have been a gamble to re-brand, is now a largely irrelevant discussion. We are where we are, and we must seek to make the best of it.
The new Board is not naïve in this respect, but we remain tremendously optimistic. We are fully aware of the direction of the sport, and the challenges facing clubs like Swinton Lions – indeed you could rightly point out that we face some unique challenges – and quite obviously we need to carefully plan our strategic future. However, please be rest assured that a safe, sustainable and successful direction for the club is the bullet point of highest importance on our agenda.
Before we go further, we wish to make it clear that we pay due respect to Andy Mazey and his departing director colleagues. Nothing can alter the fact that they were absolutely fundamental to the turnaround of our off-field and on-field fortunes over the past couple of years, although let’s not also forget the efforts of those officials who still remain at the club, together with the significant contribution of our supporters. Since the sudden departure of the outgoing directors we have worked tremendously hard to maintain the club in a stable position, and plan effectively for 2020 and beyond. Contrary to some opinions this most certainly has not been a walk in the park, but slowly but surely we have ticked off some major boxes and are making very good progress. Quite rightly the RFL were nervous about the sudden director departures, but confidence in that direction is being restored.
Over the last three and a half months, we have been working towards the future quietly, respectfully and diligently, alongside key partners such as our sponsors and the RFL. We have also begun to assemble a new Board, through the efforts of which we have already been successful in meeting our immediate commercial and administrative targets. We will continue to expand our Board if persons of the right calibre and shared ambition come to the fore.
Whilst we are not the best supported team in the Championship, we are far from the worst. In fact pound for pound we probably have the most loyal, innovative and ingenious fans in the entire rugby league. The fact that we are still here, fighting, is testimony to that fact. We have a tremendously successful Supporters’ Trust, who provide all manner of financial and practical assistance, and added to this has been PrideBuilder, an incredibly successful venture and the envy of many clubs across the RFL. We also boast a dedicated group of media, administrative, and match day volunteers, too numerous to mention everyone here, but without whom our club could not function. An enormous thank you goes out to you all.
But probably the most important part of this New Year message, is an appeal for unity. Our supporter base is simply not currently large enough to maintain division. Whatever your opinion regarding the proposed re-brand, for the sake of our great club and its future, please park those views and get behind Stuart and his players and his backroom team. Surely these lads (and ladies) deserve that respect and your support? They are doing everything to bring success on the field, as is your Board of Directors, so please concentrate solely on getting behind the club that you love.
If you have not bought your 2020 Season Ticket yet then please do so. Please also support PrideBuilder, join the Supporters’ Trust, attend club functions etc. This is not the time to waver in your support, it’s the time to re-nail your blue and white colours to the mast. ONLY BY BEING TOGETHER CAN WE BE STRONGER.
Finally, in saying goodbye to 2019, we pay tribute to those Lions that we have lost over the last 12 months, including Les Bolton, John Cooke, Dennis Gordon, Alan Hesford, Austin Rhodes, Brian Robinson, Colin Smith and Jack Thompson. RIP.
We wish you a happy new year and will see you in 2020!
The Swinton Lions Board