New Widnes Vikings CEO, Phil Finney insists the Vikings are determined to keep their current squad together this season, revealing that they will make a presentation to Super League in the coming weeks to appeal for the remainder of their parachute payment.
Now recovering from their recent spell in administration, the Vikings confirmed last week that Finney – who has spent a decade with the club – would be the club’s new CEO. Finney described that to League Express as an ‘incredible honour’, and admitted that it is now vital for the club to reconnect with the local community.
“It’s the most important thing, it simply has to be,” he said.
“There are many people for whom Widnes Vikings is a massive part of their lives, and we have got to put their interests first. We only have a population of 55,000 in Widnes and to see us get almost 6,000 recently . . . We need to give those people a club and a team they can be proud of and maybe in the recent past that hasn’t been the case.”
On Widnes’ financial issues of late, Finney admitted that the club HAD taken early advances of central funding from the RFL, and that they will now ask Super League for the remaining £130,000 of their parachute payment which Super League had decided to withhold for now.
“It’s fair to say that there has been money brought forward to help us, in the early phase of the pre-season and at the end of 2018,” he said. “We know where we are up to and we know what we’ve got coming, but the one thing that is still up in the air is the parachute payment.
“We have spoken to Super League about that, and we are going to have to explain why we should continue to receive it. It will be really helpful if we can still benefit from that system but that will be determined by Robert Elstone.”
Numerous players left Widnes during the administration period but Finney hopes no more now leave. “From a club point of view, we are aspiring to keep the squad together,” he said. “We are awaiting guidance from the RFL, based on our budgets and cash-flow, but as things stand, we are doing everything possible to keep the squad together.
“We may have to look into setting up a dual-registration partnership, or look at some loans and things like that, but adversity does galvanise people and this squad are together.”
Finney also commented that simply avoiding relegation this year should not be Widnes’ sole aim.
“We are taking stock of the situation now,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago it had to be about saving the club, and surviving in this league. But when you look at our squad and the players other teams have got playing, why shouldn’t we start to progress up the table?
“It’s a massive challenge – with the points deduction – just to survive, but it would be dangerous to adopt that as a mindset. If nothing else, we have to aspire to finish as high as we can this season and look to getting as much central funding as possible for 2020.”