02 March 2019
Swinton Lions Chairman Andy Mazey provides the latest update on funding, finance and the future of the Lions.
“I’d like to start by congratulating the new owners of Widnes Vikings, their supporters and the rugby league community in general for the magnificent efforts in safe-guarding the future of the town’s rugby league club. The game can’t afford to lose any clubs let alone a club of Widnes’s proud heritage and history and I’m absolutely convinced under the right management they have the potential to reach the higher echelons of the sport and challenge for major honours once again.
The above said, like a number of Championship and League One Chairmen I’ve spoken to recently, I’m looking forward to understanding the detail behind events that have led to the granting of a licence to what on the face of it seems to be a new company. I’m also keen to understand exactly what level of financial distribution if any was advanced to the old business ahead of administration and the subsequent liquidation. Like the others I’m also curious as to what level of funding the new company will now receive from the Championship coffers moving forward this year. I will of course reserve judgement until these questions are answered and won’t comment any further at this stage.
What I will comment on is our own business and situation here at Swinton and what I am prepared to say is that when the SOS came in the summer of 2017 from the then only remaining directors Steve Wild and Alan Marshall, I carried out some fairly exhaustive due diligence. Part of this process was to gauge the appetite for retaining Swinton Lions even should the worst happen and administration and liquidation quickly follow. I have to say It was made perfectly clear to me that if this happened which I must add was a probability and arguably the best route for the business, we would be given absolutely no guarantees of being allowed back into the sport at professional level or retaining the clubs licence. This despite what had happened only a matter of months before at Bradford and has since happened at other clubs. Had we been afforded the ability to do what on the face of it, it seems Widnes and others have been allowed to, we would now be in a far stronger position and would not be hamstrung carrying the burden of historic CVA debt and a council loan amongst other historic issues which of course was none of mine or this current ownership’s creation or doing. The RFL statement I read last night is not crystal clear and I have written to Ralph Rimmer so hopefully my fears will be unfounded as we have to have faith in the integrity of the sport and feel safe in the knowledge that rules would never be applied differently dependant upon the size or perceived importance of a club.
The landscape of rugby league outside of Super League is changing and indeed has already changed significantly in the past six months. The league restructure last year while on the face of it gave us a lifeline in terms of staying in the Championship, came at a cost and as a result we are now trying to operate in a ultra competative division with the lowest central funding of all fourteen clubs despite technically finishing in twelth position in 2018.
As if this wasn’t difficult enough added in to the mix is the now effective and live RFL return on investment model. Brought in for 2019 to measures each clubs business and financial performance, the model effectively holds back percentages of our already reduced funding mentioned above and distributes these funds by way of rank and size on a scoring matrix. Obviously Swinton at this stage despite our best efforts and hard work of the past eighteen months and progress rank below the majority of clubs in Championship and quite a few in League One meaning the combination of a restructure and effects of ROI have made Swinton a unique case and we have been hurt more than any other club by it all. We are now operating the same business model, being asked to compete in the same competition, with the same level of staff, player and liabilities but having to bridge a sixty two thousand pound’s funding gap just to stand still which is very frustrating indeed and makes you question your faith in the sport at times and what you are doing investing in it.
For our board it has clearly effected our planing and is changing our thinking and we have had to adapt and become even more economical with the use of our very limited resources. As the saying goes however what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and with the continued investment from myself and other board members plus the backing of our fantastic commercial partners and sponsors we are still here and fighting.
It would be wrong of me also not to pay tribute to the continued efforts of our fantastic supporters. Pride Builder and the Supporters Trust have been outstanding, in Pride Builder’s case this new income has helped us give Stuart a quality player in Gavin Bennion we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. The reality is however and we must always be mindful of that if we attempted to run this club off what comes through the gate and the income it self generates alone it would not wash its own face and compete in League One or even be here sadly. With this in mind we have to keep investing time and finance and must continue to work hard putting the building blocks in place. Only by everyone pulling in the same direction and collectively meeting the challenges as they present themselves will we keep this ship sailing in calmer waters than its been in the past.
With this in mind if anyone identifies ways to promote the club please just do it. Ideas are two a penny, delivery is completely different thing. I’ve said on many occasions what we need it’s a willingness to take the bull by the horns by all, download your own posters from the clubs official social media pages, print them off at home or at work and hand to friends and family, post in shops, pubs, supermarkets, community clubs and if we all engaged just one new person to come along on a Sunday then we’ve cracked it.
Media wise and online we are head and shoulders above most clubs in this league, but you our loyal fans have to be the sales people of M27 and beyond if we are to increase our numbers and stand a chance of ever returning this club to its former glories. Let’s make people sick of seeing and hearing about Swinton Lions.
We are positive but not unrealistic about where we are at and where we can get to. Lets aim to be the very best we can be and most of all let’s do everything we do with a smile on our faces and enjoying the ride TOGETHER as unity is strength.”