Tough times

League Express Championship correspondent GARETH WALKER hears about the efforts of one club to reverse its financial troubles.

OLDHAM Chairman Chris Hamilton has seen more than most in terms of what it takes to run a Rugby League club outside the top flight.

In almost 22 years in charge of the Roughyeds, Hamilton has fought the club’s own day-to-day battle for survival while watching others hit financial difficulties.

So when he says that the current climate is as difficult as he can remember for the sport, people should listen.

Widnes Vikings’ decline to the near abyss of liquidation led to a genuine feel-good story when almost 6,000 fans saw them beat Featherstone on Sunday days after their rescue from administration.

Theirs was also a situation created almost completely while in Super League.

But nether should overshadow the fact that it was the latest warning sign for clubs in all divisions to listen to, which Hamilton highlighted in Monday’s League Express.

“I’ve been around for a long time now, and I don’t remember as many clubs being in trouble as there have been over the course of the last 12 months,” Hamilton said.

“And it’s clubs at all levels that we’re talking about.

“Obviously there’s been Widnes, and off the top of my head Keighley, while Salford found it difficult financially after Marwan Koukash left, and we’ve heard different stories over other Super League clubs that have had issues.

“Whitehaven had problems publicly, Barrow too, and Leigh had a very uncertain period.

“It’s not just been clubs that have been at the bottom of their leagues that have been struggling; it’s included clubs at the top ends of their divisions.

“We’re all chasing a dream aren’t we, whichever division we’re in, and there’s only a limited number of clubs that can get near to achieving it each year.”

The Roughyeds have taken measures to address the situation by setting up a management board that strives to increase attendances, bring in more income, improve the club’s profile and secure its future.

Hamilton was joined in publicly outlining the difficulties currently facing clubs by his Swinton counterpart Andy Mazey, whose club has the lowest central funding in the Championship.

As part of a detailed statement that can be read in full on the Lions’ website, Mazey said: “The landscape of Rugby League outside of Super League is changing and indeed has already changed significantly in the past six months.

“We have had to adapt and become even more economical with the use of our very limited resources.

“Only by everyone pulling in the same direction and collectively meeting the challenges as they present themselves will we keep this ship sailing in calmer waters than it’s been in the past.”

Gareth Walker writes his weekly ‘Championship Focus’ column in League Express every Monday.