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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!

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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

News

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

News

LIONS APPOINT NEW SKIPPERS!

ALAN KILSHAW NAMES NEW CAPTAINS AND PLAYERS’ LEADERSHIP GROUP

Swinton Lions Head Coach Alan Kilshaw has named joint captains for the 2024 season, with Mitch Cox and Rhys Williams taking on the prestigious role.

The Lions have also named a core leaders group, made up of five players who all bring different leadership qualities to the team. These core leaders will be Jordan Gibson, Dan Abram, Richard Lepori, Lewis Hall and Cole Oakley.

Alan Kilshaw explained, “It’s important for me to have a core leaders group, and with our two captains Mitch and Rhys leading it, then we are well represented. Rhys has a lot of experience at this and higher levels and leads by example on and off the field. Mitch has been at the club a while now and is well respected in the group. He communicates well and plays tough on the field. Supporting those two will be the rest of the leaders group are all players who set good standards. We also felt it was imperative we had the younger players represented in the group of leaders so Cole was a good choice to fill that role.”

The Head Coach added, “We have some natural leaders in the team and there is some players who positionally will organise things on the field. We wanted a good balance for the core leaders group, whilst for some players we want them to have more of a focus on their own personal role without the extra responsibility. We are developing an environment where everyone will contribute within the team whether they are the captains, core leaders, or other squad members, but it’s equally important to have a group who can drive standards and also collaborate with myself and the coaching staff to maintain those standards and encourage enjoyment in the group.”

Joint Captain, Mitch Cox said, “Getting the captaincy role is a real honour for me. It’s my fifth season at the club so it really does feel like home at Swinton. Everyone who has been at the club for the time I’ve been here will know what getting this role means to me. I will give my everything as captain for my team mates, staff and fans.”

Our other joint Captain, Rhys Williams added, “I’m really enjoying my time so far at the club and I’m very proud to have been named joint captain with Mitch. I aim to lead with my actions and be as solid as I can first and foremost and then the leadership stuff will come naturally off the back of it. We have a great group who have all been willing to work for each other so far.”

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Christmas message from the Board

Christmas message from Swinton Lions

On behalf of the Board of Directors, coaching, backroom and playing staff, I would like to wish all our sponsors, business partners and fantastic supporters a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

This time of the year means different things to different people and for me Christmas is a time for family, a time to reflect on the previous 12 months. To bring that closer to home our values at family Lions is never more evident at this time of year. The main highlights for me were the jubilation of the Whitehaven and Halifax games which cemented our Championship status in a healthy 10th position, the Lionesses being competitive in a tough Championship, and the Lions’ Development Pathway Under 18s playing their first game.

Looking ahead to 2024, I am sure everyone is excited at the thought of the new season under new Head Coach Alan Kilshaw with an experienced backroom staff and a strong playing squad. I know first hand that pre-season is going well, with a positive ethos within the squad.

The Lionesses are recruiting well and Head Coach Steve Thirkell is supported by a solid backroom staff.

Our off-field development programmes and Foundation continue to grow and watch out for further news.

You will have seen IMG indicative gradings take shape as the sport in general needs to change and grow. As a Board of Directors, we are working towards raising our standards in conjunction with each pillar of the IMG grading criteria, ensuring long term sustainability of the club and it is vital we travel on this journey together.

Christmas can also be a painful and sad time for many families, particularly for people who have suffered bereavement over the past year. Our thoughts are with family Lions members who have suffered such sad losses.

Well-being is a core fabric of the Lions’ values and I would encourage people to rally round their family, friends and neighbours and provide them with the help and support that they may need so they are not on their own during the festive period.

Christmas is a time for us all to recharge our batteries ready ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead in 2024 and I look forward to us family Lions being on an exciting journey together in 2024, and hope to see as many as possible at the season launch on 26th January at Heywood Road.

Stuart Fletcher
Chairman
On behalf of the Board

News

LIONS AND SAINTS CONFIRM DR

Swinton Lions and St Helens Dual Registration Agreement to continue in 2024

We are delighted to confirm that our Dual Registration agreement with St Helens will be extended into 2024!

This will be the second season of the arrangement, which in 2023 saw players such as George Delaney, Ben Davies, Matty Foster, Wes Bruines, Will Roberts, Lewis Baxter, Dan Norman and Sam Royle appear in Swinton Lions colours. The arrangement proved of great value to both clubs, who struck up a great working relationship.

Swinton Lions CEO, Steve Wild, said, “I’m delighted that our DR arrangement with St Helens will continue into season 2024. St Helens is a top club in every respect and it’s been a great experience for us at Swinton Lions to be working so closely with them.

“The partnership worked really well last season during which time we were thrilled to play a part in the development of young players such as George Delaney and several others. And of course our squad’s playing strength received a substantial boost at the same time.

“Our two clubs have struck up a great relationship based on respect, friendship and mutual benefit and long may it continue.”

Swinton Head Coach, Alan Kilshaw, was also delighted at the news. He said, “We are very grateful to Mike Rush and Paul Wellens for working with us to extend our partnership for the 2024 season.

“The arrangement worked well last season and I’m hoping we can develop it even further. There are benefits for both clubs and I’m confident that we will continue to work well alongside each other to make our DR agreement a great success.”

Saints’ Head Coach, Paul Wellens, added, “We are delighted to have our dual-registration agreement with Swinton Lions continue into the 2024 season. The partnership allows some of our players to gain valuable match minutes in a highly competitive Championship, evidenced last season by George Delaney’s rise.

“George took that opportunity with Swinton and it was beneficial for both parties. Any player that gets their chance with the Lions, we expect to match our standards as they are representing both clubs.

“The partnership continues to flourish, and we are excited to be working together again in the 2024 season.”

News

SAINTS v LIONS IN SEASON OPENER!

Swinton Lions face mouth-watering visit to St Helens!

Our 2024 season will be launched with a first-ever visit to the Totally Wicked Stadium early in the new year, for a high-profile pre-season friendly against Super League giants St Helens!

The match will take place on Saturday 20th January with a 2pm kick-off, as Alan Kilshaw’s new-look Lions finalise preparations ahead of our first competitive game eight days later at North Wales Crusaders.

Tickets priced Adults £10, Concessions £5, and Juniors £3, are available via the ticketing page on the St Helens RLFC official website.

https://www.eticketing.co.uk/saintsrlfc/Events

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RUN WITH THE PRIDE – LIONS REVEAL 2024 KITS!

Run with the Pride – Swinton Lions’ and Lionesses’ new look for the 2024 season

At Swinton Lions RLFC, in association with our new technical kit partners Patrick, we are delighted to reveal our brand new home and away playing strip – colours which will be worn by both our Lions and Lionesses in season 2024!

Our principal jersey, which features a white double-chevron on navy blue, is a hark back to strong traditions at Swinton; whilst our pale green alternative jersey is something completely new and fresh and synonymous with summer rugby. We have confidence that both shirts will be a hit with our loyal fans.

We would especially like to thank all of our shirt sponsors, including our headline club sponsor Glossop Caravans, but also established sponsors Daisymill Technologies, Camway Installations, Primus Traffic Management, Seed Architects and Roadflash, as well as new sponsors Vesta Care UK, Regin Group and Heyrod Construction, for their outstanding faith in Swinton Lions which we plan to reward on and off the field in 2024.

Look out for details via our official channels on how to obtain your replicas!

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2024 Team Wear Update

2024 Team Wear Update

At Swinton Lions we would like to thank our supporters for your patience in awaiting information regarding our 2024 match play jerseys, as well as our 2024 training wear and other merchandise.

We have been working flat out behind the scenes with our very supportive commercial partners, including our new kit suppliers Patrick, and all of our much valued team wear sponsors.

We can now provide the following update.

• A pop-up shop will take place at Folly Lane ARLFC on Fraser Street, Pendlebury M27 4DH, this coming Sunday (17th), from 1pm until 4pm. Various items of 2024 merchandise will be available, but not 2024 replica playing shirts. More information, including training wear imagery, will follow within the next 24 hours. Our thanks is extended to our friends at Folly for facilitating this event.

• We will be releasing images of our 2024 playing kit ahead of the pop-up shop, and it will be possible to purchase vouchers to swap later for replica shirts, either at the pop-up shop, or via our website’s ticketing page. We will advise again as soon as voucher sales are “live” on the website.

• We expect replica shirts to be available in January.

• There will be an official season launch event at our Heywood Road Stadium, on Friday evening 26th January. Everyone welcome. More detailed information will follow soon, but again replica shirts and other merchandise will be available at this event.

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