TotalRL Editor Matt Shaw sat down with the new Halifax chairman, Mark Moore, to discuss the future of the Championship club.
MS: Mark, thanks for joining us. You’ve been at Halifax around a year now. How have you found your time at the club so far?
MM: Challenging, but it has also had its rewards with the way the supporters are buying into the vision the board are trying to achieve over the next number of years.
I did a lot of research and asked contacts for their thoughts on the club, and I felt it to be a sleeping giant that’s been dormant for a few years. With me leaving Bradford after a short period of time, I felt there were still a lot of things to prove to myself and to the Rugby League world that my ideas and thoughts could be achieved.
MS: There’s a new-look board at the helm, how difficult has that process been?
MM: It was always made clear when I was approached last year that Michael Steele would move on and they wanted someone to fill those shoes. Mike Riley said he would also leave at the same time.
Ian Croad became ill quite soon after I arrived. I’ve been in a similar situation myself with my son who has been very poorly and it gives you a wake-up call. Ian had that wake-up call and he decided as a result he would enjoy his life and remove the pressure of running a Rugby League club.
I think they knew it was time for a change and with Ian going as well it was time to find different people with different backgrounds that acquire different skills, but all have the same vision for the club. I believe we’ve got that now and it’s proved by the fact we’ve got green ticks on every side of the business compared to last year.
MS: You mentioned the club’s long-term vision. What exactly is your vision for the club?
MM: The first thing is to make the club sustainable, which it hasn’t been for a number of years. We’re tackling that right now and we think that will be achievable next year. The cost-cutting we’ve done this year along with the way our commercial sales have increased will play towards that. Our season ticket sales are up 40% from last year and other initiatives are starting to help us towards that. An example of that would be having our own club shop back. We haven’t sold our own merchandise for five years. With the budgets we’ve put in place, we’re convinced the club will be looking after itself by next year.
Secondly, we want to get back and engage in the community. As a club it’s something that has been lacking for a number of years. There’s a lot more the club could and should have been doing. That’s a top priority.
Obviously fielding a competitive team that can compete at the top and hopefully Super League would be great. However, there are changes afoot and that might become more difficult as the years go by. But that’s an aim for us.
MS: The increase in season ticket sales sounds encouraging. How have you been able to do that?
MM: We’ve gone back to basics. We’re only offering the 11 home games, which has allowed us to drop our prices. It also helps us from a cash flow point of view. Since the Super 8s concept was brought in the club has sold the season ticket prices and it included Summer Bash and Super 8s game, which restrains finances coming through at critical times.
We’ve also offered a scheme where if you bring a dormant season ticket holder back to the club with a season ticket, that person will get 10% off their price. We let the supporters sell the tickets for us to our dormant supporters and that has been really successful to the point where fans that haven’t been around the club for years are holding their own fan forums.
The other thing that has been a success has been our £50 offer to the emergency services and the army. As we speak, the club has surpassed the season ticket money that it brought in from last year, so it’s a win-win on both sides. Because of the increase in sales, we’ve gone back in the market and started speaking to three additional players.
MS: It’s evident that the club has put a lot of effort into building the fanbase, particularly aiming at distant supporters. Why is that?
MM: We need these people to support our club. And it’s an easy sell, you’ve just got to make those people believe and trust in the vision of the club. It’s not just the season ticket sales that are good, everything is increased on last year’s budget. The club already has no match sponsorship to sell. The club has never been in that situation.
At the end of the day, this isn’t mine or my fellow directors’ club. We’re just the captains of the ship steering it. But if we don’t have the passengers believing they have a good crew, they won’t come on that ship. But at the minute everyone seems to be coming on board.
MS: One thing the club was very pro-active with during their time in Super League was engaging with schools. Is that a focus for the club moving forward?
MM: That’s for next year. At the moment we’re concentrating on dormant fans. We are then going to get a group of people in schools and community teams. 2018 will all be about youth and getting them into the club. Calderdale Council have been fantastic with this initiative and are supporting us in every way. As a result we’ll have access to the pitch before, during and after the game so we can get the local teams and school involved in activities.
MS: It’s been a long time since the club dropped the ‘Blue Sox’ brand. Are there any plans for a re-brand in the future?
It hasn’t been discussed. I think if you look at Wakefield and the way their return to tradition seems to have worked, I think it’s proof you don’t need to do it.
We have two crests. We have our traditional and modern crest. You should have seen more of our modern crest, and as we move on we will be using the differing crest depending on whether we’re aiming something at our traditional or younger supporters, whether that be merchandise or whatever else.
MS: A successful team on the field always helps a club grow. What are your hopes for this year?
MM: Top four. It would be fantastic to be in Super League but the club isn’t ready for that yet. We have to walk before we run and we won’t go in all hammer and tong to make Super League. Our goal this year is to make the four.
MS: The supporters have been somewhat frustrated with the lack of new additions ahead of next year. Do you expect any further new faces to arrive at the club?
MM: I’m confident we’ll have another three through the door soon. We were always straight with supporters. We told them the budget for the squad and the numbers we had to hit. That’s why we told them to tell us what they were comfortable paying for season tickets.
We told them what we needed to hit financially and then beyond that, any number of season tickets sold, that money would immediately go to Richard. We smashed that over two weeks ago and there is now additional funds in the budget set in October allowing us to speak to players. We are talking to three players of which two of them are very close if not over the line.
MS: On Richard Marshall, how pleased are you with the work he’s doing at the club?
MM: He’s had the gig for three years and of two of those he got us in the top four. What else could we ask for? I must admit I was nervous when Warrington were looking. Luckily he is with us and he has a few years left.