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28 November 2017


In the debut of a regular monthly column and his first official interview, Swinton Lions Chairman Andy Mazey discusses his arrival at the club during a ‘turbulent time’, his admiration for the hard work of the club staff including Head Coach Stuart Littler and his excitement for the club’s future in 2018.

The 2017 season was an eventful one for the club, embroiled in a relegation battle in the Championship on the field, whilst struggling with financial difficulties with HMRC off it.

Andy describes coming into the club in one of its darkest hours, “Steve (Wild) and Alan (Marshall) were left holding the baby when the turbulent times came around and they came to me and explained everything, they were pretty graphic with it and gave me all the information you need to review a situation like that.”

However, despite the enormity and complex task facing him, Andy provides a simplistic reason of why he wanted to become part of the Lions family, “We enjoy watching rugby league, we’re rugby league people.”

Despite his rise from club sponsor to the position as the Lions Chairman, Andy credits the growing team developing around him, “Alan and Steve have stayed as part of the management team and we have also extended with new directors coming on board. It’s by no means a one-man show, it’s a management team and a big team effort.”


Whilst the hard-work was going on behind the scenes at a boardroom level, The Swinton Lions Supporters Trust and Lions’ faithful as well as the wider rugby league family rallied around the club in its 150th year to ensure its future. Setting up a crowdfunding page which raised over £10,000 to assist with the club’s running costs, something which fundamentally encouraged Andy to become involved.

“As much as I wanted to help Steve and Alan, if I’d not seen something in the supporters and believed there was a future, had I not seen the efforts of the supporters and got to meet them and seen how vocal they are on a matchday, I may have chosen to not invest and walk away. When you’re at away games and the weather’s poor and the teams struggling, they’re the 18th man and drive the team on. You get results on the back of the fans.”

“Steve and Alan did a great amount of work to keep the club alive and the supporters matched that. That was important because it’s a team thing. Alongside their work, if the fans hadn’t risen to the challenge there wouldn’t be a Swinton Lions now.”

With unfulfilled promises made in the past, Andy believes that being transparent and open with the supporters and sponsors is the right way to move forward, “We’re an honest and transparent bunch in what we are doing. We’ve created a business model built on sustainability, first and foremost but we’ve also shown ambition. We’re not spending anything we haven’t got. I’d like to think that people are trusting us in moving forward and we’re also showing that we have got a great vision.”

“It’s a marathon and not a sprint. We do like to engage with supporters and have done so publicly but we aren’t going to over-promise.

“We will deliver and have set goals in-house for what we want to achieve on and off the field but what we’re trying to do is demonstrate ambition and show we’re doing things the right way but play things down where we can because we want to exceed expectations, rather than not meet them.”

In the true spirit of the club and thanks to the hard work of the management team, backroom staff, players and supporters, the club successfully avoided relegation to League One, whilst settling its debt with HMRC thanks to investors and supporters crowdfunding, making for a brighter future for the club.


Following the departure of Head Coach John Duffy to Featherstone Rovers in July, assistant Stuart Littler was given the opportunity to take the reins of the first team.

“I wasn’t officially involved when John left and it was left to Alan and Steve to find his replacement and I think it was a natural decision to give it to Stuart. He was already within the club, knew the systems and structures but also he was the right man for the job. There wasn’t anybody you could bring in from the outside that could do the job he did. Ultimately he proved that decision to be the correct one.”

With eight games left to play, Littler and assistant Jay Duffy managed the Lions to three crucial wins in the Championship Shield, including a relegation decider against Oldham Roughyeds, which the Lions won 29-6, to ensure Championship rugby league at Heywood Road in 2018.

“The great results he got last season in difficult circumstances, away at Bradford, away at Dewsbury and ultimately the big one, the £100,000 game against Oldham, I think that was the catalyst. The efforts of Stuart and his staff on that day have ultimately, given us as a board the platform to take the club forward.”


Following the heroic finish to last season, Andy and Stuart haven’t stood still, recruiting no less than 13 new players as well as keeping the core of the Lions team including fans’ favourite Andy Bracek, marquee signing Matt Sarsfield and top try scorer Mike Butt.

Andy explains the process that goes into signing new players, “The starting point and the thing that often clubs don’t get right is budgeting. Before conversations can take place with agents and players, even with Stuart, we have to sit down as a board and look at the income to be sure that what we can spend ties in with the realistic income. We’re not forecasting numbers that aren’t realistically coming in.”

“We sat down as a board and prepared a budget that the club could sustain and within that there’s a figure that we can go out and spend on players. The next meeting is with Stu and we tell him what he can spend.”

Whilst Andy recognises that the club won’t have the financial capabilities of the likes of Toronto, Leigh and Featherstone, he’s very pleased with how the squad has come together for the 2018 season.

“We’re not going to be one of the big spenders in the Championship, but Stuart had to go away and put a squad together. We’ve spoken to many agents and players and burned the midnight oil to do what we’ve needed to do. There’s been a bit of a running joke on social media about us and the Costa Coffee Cups – I think the coffee has kept us going!

“With the budget we set out with and the squad we have put together now, I would have snapped your hand off to have taken this squad when we set the budget!”

Andy is also pleased how playing staff has bought into the future of the club.

”Ultimately everything is about transparency. We’ve relayed that to the players and told them exactly the club’s position and ambition. All the existing guys have re-signed and bought into that but the new guys have done too.”


Things are looking bright for the club with developments underway off the field including confirmation of RFL accreditation as a Category 3 Academy and a project with Moorside Rangers Football Club to develop an area of land at Agecroft to bring the club home, however Andy is already itching to engage the current fanbase and expand the club’s reach across Swinton, Sale and Manchester, “I’ve seen enough to see in the fans that they’re really passionate and they want it and it’s about getting the next generation.

“There’s a generation of people who’ve been lost who’ve not seen Swinton Lions play in Swinton. It’s about not waiting until we get back; it’s about putting that generation of fans in place before we even come home.

“The club will only be as successful as the supporters want it to be and they have to back it. The top clubs in rugby league have the biggest fan bases, and while we’re not currently big in numbers I believe we will grow.”

Swinton Lions Chairman Andy Mazey speaking to reporter Colin James.

Written by Chris Bell.

You can buy your 2018 season ticket now alongside exclusive benefits with the 1866 Club membership from the Swinton Lions shop.


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