Following yesterday’s decision to postpone rugby league at all levels until at least April 3 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leigh Centurions Owner Derek Beaumont has today been outlining the Club’s current situation and explained how fans can help steer the Club during these demanding and unprecedented times.
Mr Beaumont was speaking after taking part in a phone conference organised by the RFL on Tuesday afternoon.
RFL phone conference
“The RFL had always planned to hold a phone conference today to discuss what we would do but that decision was taken out of our hands by the Government’s announcement on Monday.
“Prior to that we had received a paper from the RFL which was really extensive and they must be congratulated for their diligence on that. I think it has shown really strong leadership by the RFL. It was wide reaching, very informative and compassionate to all areas of the business including broadcast partners, sponsors and stadiums.
“It isn’t a decision by the RFL and Super League to say ‘let’s stop playing’. It’s a directive from the Government.”
“The thing at the forefront of everybody’s thoughts is the financial position of the clubs. Everybody knows that rugby league is not a financially affluent sport and depends massively on its stakeholders and in some cases, benefactors. The key stakeholders in any club are without doubt the fans and its sponsors.
“That brings a number of concerns with not playing games the biggest being the reduction in revenue. There is obviously a nervousness on finances. The bigger risk beyond that would be season ticket holders who have already paid to watch games which aren’t taking place.
“The biggest threat to any club would be if people wanted to start reclaiming their season tickets which ultimately they’d be entitled to do but ultimately they’d be bringing down the thing that they want to support. They tend to be your ‘hard core’ fans so we’d be asking them for patience.
“Given Rugby League has got a history of getting together and helping people by rallying round as we’ve seen from tragedies like Danny Jones, Mose Masoe’s injury and the horrendous situation with Rob Burrow there’s a good track record of people doing that. I am quite confident that we’ve got a Club with fans that will stick with us and sponsors that will stay with us even though they will be facing their own difficulties. We all need to stay strong.
“There will be threats to clubs because there is no income and with wages due at the end of the month, there will be some clubs living hand to mouth. There will be mixed messages coming from different clubs because they’re all in different positions. I just want people to be sure that what’s happening at other clubs isn’t necessarily what’s happening here.
“What I can focus on is our Club because I think it’s important to know where we stand and how it affects us. We are fortunate to some extent because of what we previously went through and what we learned from that although this is a completely different set of circumstances. Because of what happened and the fact we completely stripped the club back we are actually cash strong at the moment. So our season ticket money is actually for this season, the same with sponsorship so nothing is being spent on previous seasons. That puts us in a good position because the money that is there is to look after our players.
“That wouldn’t cover everything over the full course of the season because there is income that should be coming in on match days that assists that and there is income from me which was pledged when we set those budgets. That will remain from me. What’s important is that we all stick together.
“Our partner Leigh Community Trust continues its excellent work among the most vulnerable in our locality.”
Playing and coaching staff
“We want to keep our players training. I have had a meeting with John (Duffy, Leigh Centurions Head Coach) and we want to keep our players mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. They need to understand that they’ve got my backing as well as the backing from sponsors and fans. Everyone needs to be behind this club to make sure they see it come out at the other side in a strong position ready to resume playing fixtures when we are able so we can continue our challenge for Super League.
“Our players are in a good place. They will continue to train. We are different to some other clubs because many of our players are full-time so we can’t look to reduce what they earn. There is a commitment and funds already in place so they need to know they’re in a safe place.”
The remainder of the season
“There are issues about how the season is managed because time is ticking away. While April 3 is the next time we review it, it’s probably unlikely in my opinion that we will be back playing as quickly as that. It may be the case that people aren’t allowed to go and watch it even if games can take place which will mean talks about streaming and giving Sky the opportunity to have more content. But we can only work with what we know and that’s what we will do. We will plan for our training till that point. There are plans for how the season can be slightly reshaped to get the fixtures in.
“We’ve engaged with our partners – Leigh Sports Village (LSV) because there’s a burden on them with the Manchester United Women situation plus private functions and the income they get from secondary spend from ourselves – all that is diminishing. The LSV are obligated to follow Government advice as are we so there will be implications regarding training such as will the leisure centre and pitches be able to stay open. It’s a moving picture everyday and we are all engaged together. We would like to thank the LSV for their pledge of continuing support to the Club.
“At this time there are no restrictions on training but Government guidance on that is being sought by the RFL so that may change. From our point of view, we will train as we currently do. There are measures for players to follow when they’re not there and plans in place if the directives change about training. At this moment we have a plan working towards April 3 and also a plan if there was inactivity for six weeks.”
How the Leigh Centurions fans can help
“Supporters asking for refunds on season tickets would have the biggest impact on the club because that would change the situation it’s in. The feedback I’ve had is that fans are not looking to do that which is very pleasing and I hope that continues.
“LCTV (Leigh Centurions TV) is something we see as a big part of the business and we are looking to add resources to that. Now there is a space with no games and we will be looking at featuring classic matches, new interviews and more features on our players and sponsors. I’d like to hear fans’ ideas on what they’d like to see on there in the coming weeks. If we could get 500 fans signing up for £5.99 that’s going to be a huge help.
“In terms of our retail, I am sure our fans will continue to support that as they always do and our SuperLeigh Draw continues to be an important source of revenue as does LISA (Leigh Independent Supporters’ Association). If fans can join or continue supporting those organisations that’s massively important to us.”
“We will continually keep our fans updated as the situation changes and thank them for their support and wish everyone peace and health at this difficult time.”