Exclusive Q&A with Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont (part two)

You can read part one by clicking here.

AB: It’s a difficult question to tackle – but what’s the answer to the league structure?

DB: Well, for starters, I don’t think you can automatically give someone from the Championship a place in Super League. They may well get a significant increase in funding and not use it. Here’s what I would propose the sport does, because it needs to package something and go to the broadcaster with it. You take your negotiations to the table well in advance of the current deal expiring, and hopefully Sky would look to renew in advance.

If you put Toronto into a 14-team Super League now, there’s a question of integrity, as they haven’t earned a place in Super League yet. But I think in 2018, Toronto will do what they need to do to rid themselves of that issue. I’m certain they’ll be up there – and I’m certain we will. We need to get to a 14-team competition ideally, where everyone plays each other home and away. Your 27th game would then be the Magic Weekend, but what we also do is have a weekend in somewhere like Blackpool or Newcastle which is dedicated to a Nines competition. You then have the top two Championship teams involved too, with four groups of four and you eventually get to a knockout stage after that. It’s something different, it fills up broadcasting space and it does work.

Then for the promotion and relegation aspect, the bottom team in Super League plays the team who finishes top of the Championship in a one-off game, and you can have a neutral ground or even give home advantage to the team from the Championship. Is it a perfect answer? Probably not, but it’s a starter for 10.

AB: What year do you envisage changes happening, then?

DB: A lot depends on Sky. If it’s not 2019 when change can take place because of the broadcaster, it has to be 2020. In 2019, for example, you could do the same format and determine the 14 teams by having sixth play seventh in the Qualifiers, so six of the eight go up. If it’s not 2019, it could be 2020 – we’ll see what happens.

AB: One owner has spoke of his confidence licensing will return – do you share that view?

DB: No. We’re a mile off what we’re going to come up with but the one thing I can tell you that has been consistent throughout is that there has to be jeopardy. There has to be. There also has to be a route for someone with ambition and resources to find their way into Super League. To prevent that from happening creates a stagnation in the sport.

AB: Back onto yourselves, are you heartened by Hull KR’s instant return to Super League ahead of your own promotion push?

DB: I thought they did a great job. They got the backing of the fans, the sponsors stayed on they made a great appointment in Tim Sheens and kept who they wanted. It’s not too dissimilar to ourselves; the sponsors have come on strong, for example. Next week, season tickets will go on sale, the sponsors are backing us with the same funding and I’ll commit to a bigger, significant seven-figure, budget.

The only unknown quantity now is the fans. If they back us anything like Hull KR’s fans did, then this club is going places. I’m considering whether to significant increase season ticket prices for 2019 – but I’ll promise that anyone who is an existing season ticket holder already by then will be immune from any increase. I think it’s fair that people who support the club in difficult times like now have an advantage over those who don’t.

AB: Onto your squad – how pleased are you with what you’ve done so far?

DB: The signings of Jordan Thompson and Peter Mata’utia showed that we’re not assembling a Championship side – we’re assembling a strong Super League side. Bryson Goodwin was a sensible business decision; I knew that Bryson could go for free if we lost the MPG and Simon (Moran) is a smart business guy. It was a good move. Other Super League players have been brought in and other NRL players too – and you’ll see a good blend of youth and experience.

AB: Do you still intend to field a reserve side in 2018 (Beaumont told League Express earlier this year of his intention to do so)?

DB: I’ve still got Keiron working on that and doing what he can on it. It’ll be a slower process because the platform needs to be built around getting into Super League – but it won’t get scrapped. We’ll get players playing in that system next year as opposed to getting them sent out on dual-registration.

AB: Finally Derek, do you still believe, as you said before the Million Pound Game, this club can become a top-end Super League side?

DB: 100 per cent. We learn by our mistakes and this is all a process. We go back to the Championship, we can give game-time to those who need it so that if and when we do go back up, we won’t need to add too much. I’m not walking away; I’m committed to it and I’ve still got that dream of Leigh Centurions playing at Wembley. We know the Championship will be tough but we’ll set some goals and we won’t just accept winning – we’ll be ruthless and set some seriously high standards. I’ll finish on this note: the team we will have next year will be better than this year’s.