A statement from the Board of Directors...

A statement from the Board of Directors... widnesvikings.co.uk
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28th June 2019

A statement from Widnes Vikings' Board of Directors...

"As a Board, each and every one of us who has the privilege of helping to lead this great club recognises the significance of our responsibility. We want to build, with you, a new era for the club. Fundamental to that is our values of transparency, integrity and honesty. 

In that spirit, we want to tell you, our loyal supporters and partners, about our plans for next season and to explain how even in the face of immediate adversity we absolutely believe in a successful future for Widnes Vikings.

You will know that as a club we are still feeling the effects of relegation and administration. From those perilous moments when the club’s future looked to be in jeopardy through to right now, the support of our fan base has been incredible. 

However, we have also been deprived of revenue streams that have been fundamental to the running of the club in the past, and had to honour many of the liabilities of the previous incarnation of Widnes Vikings. We’re making progress against these challenges, but there is much still to do - and naturally, this sets the course for our season ahead and ones to follow. 

Planning for the future

Today, we have spoken to our players and staff to inform them that next season, Widnes Vikings will operate a part-time playing team. We now also want to share these plans with you, too. This reflects those values of transparency and respect, which are so important to us.

The reality is that with our projected income for next season, Widnes Vikings cannot sustain a full-time first team environment. We know that the passion exists for this club, and seen how our community will rally to fundraise and support, but at this stage the gap is simply a bridge too far.

When we were competing in the Betfred Super League in 2018, we received £1.9 million in central funding from Super League. Following our relegation from the top flight to the Betfred Championship, we were due to receive a figure of £800,000 as central funding.

Following relegation, the club was in a position to maintain a full-time playing squad as a result of the parachute payment we were due to receive. Without the parachute money, Widnes Vikings' first team would have become a part-time one come the start of the 2019 season.

After the club’s administration troubles in February, a considerable amount of that figure has now been withheld, which has put considerable strain on the club for the remainder of the year.  

Following our takeover earlier in the year, we as a board have honoured the commitments of the previous board. This was something we felt was morally the right thing to do, despite us losing the remainder of the parachute payment that we were due. This was coupled with the club’s Academy funding being cut at the same time. 

Therefore, moving forward into the 2020 season, because of our current league position following the 12-point deduction, the realistic central funding figure we are likely to receive is approximately £250,000. As a result, we as a Board need to ensure that the club is running within its means. 

It has been important for us to speak to our players at this early stage, so we can start to plan for next season as soon as possible and also pay our players and their families this same respect.

People may hope for us to speculate to accumulate and hold back from making this decision, but we have seen - and are continuing to unpick - the effects of unchecked speculation and optimism.

Widnes Vikings has proudly been standing for over 140 years. After the recent experiences and troubles that we have faced this year, it’s imperative as a board that we play our part to ensure this club is here for the next 144 years.

So what does this mean for the club, it’s supporters and players? 

Competing for success 

The reality is that part-time teams can be and are highly competitive. Anyone who has watched our opponents this year will appreciate that there are quality players in this division who are capable of performing at a very high level.  We have taken this into consideration, and this factor has been instrumental in our decision making for both performance and financial reasons.

Does going part-time mean that we are losing our ambition? Absolutely not.

We aspire to build a team with the best possible players, who are capable of putting the Vikings into those playoff positions, and beyond. We want a winning team, that plays good rugby and creates magical moments for our supporters. 

There are seasoned, skilled and quality part-time players in this division, and we believe that we can offer them one of the best environments in the Betfred Championship. We have advantages over many of the other part-time clubs, and we will be using them all.

We believe that when all factors have been considered, we will be in a position to recruit a very competitive squad for the 2020 season and this has been integral to our decision-making process. 

This change will mean that some of our current players will naturally wish to move on to pursue their careers with other clubs. They will leave with our full support and gratitude for their contribution. But, where possible, we hope to retain those players who wish to continue to be part of our journey. 

We will strive to support them to find education or career options that mean that they can continue to be a Viking in 2020, and the support of our partners will be key to this. The retention and recruitment of players who wish to pursue this route is a massive priority for the club, and these players will ensure we are a competitive club moving forward.

This will be a challenging time for those players and our wider staff team, so your continued support means everything.

As a Board, we are currently exploring ways that we can sustain our Academy system, through developing alternative funding sources that will not affect our first team environment. We firmly believe that the players that have come through our youth system have brought value to this club, in every sense. 

They have worn the shirt with pride, stood by the club in its darkest moments and proved their ability. Developing our own players is a cost-effective way to build a competitive first team. Widnes is a rugby league town, and we will not give up on its ability to develop professional players without a fight.


Rebuilding

This decision is about giving Widnes Vikings a firm financial footing for next year, so we can rebuild. It is a decision that has not been made lightly, and is something that is not necessarily permanent.

As a Board, we are Widnes supporters with the very best interests of this club and this town at heart. We aspire to see Widnes Vikings back in the top-flight and hope that this change is just ultimately a step to be able to do that.

We wish to return Widnes Vikings to Super League in a sustainable manner, ensuring that we do so in a financially responsible way that can stand the club in good stead for generations to come.

There are already real shoots of optimism. We have incredible supporters, and your passionate backing of the team this season has not only saved the club, but given it a chance to rebuild. The manner in which VIQI has been reinvigorated, as well as seeing the efforts of WISSL and the commitment of the many volunteers who support our retail and match day operations, has been nothing short of phenomenal. The funds raised and collected by VIQI have been instrumental in saving the club, and it is absolutely imperative that this support is needed for the club to progress.  Together, we’ve brought the feel-good factor back to Widnes Vikings and redefined the identity of the club.

 

Your continued support is vital, this season and beyond. We hope that our supporters and partners continue to back the club in any way they can. Every effort counts - keep giving, keep cheering, keep being there for your team.

We’re not giving up on Widnes Vikings and we hope that you don’t, either. We are looking forward to next season and have genuine excitement and hope for the future. Please stay with us on this journey.

Further updates into the full process of transition to a part-time playing squad will be revealed in due course, and we thank you for your continued support."

Up the Vikings!

A statement from the Board of Directors... widnesvikings.co.uk