Widnes Vikings did have “genuine interest” from parties interested in buying their Super League licence and relocating them earlier this season.
That’s according to the club’s chief executive, James Rule, who told League Express that there were legitimate offers from parties who were keen to set up a Super League side in a new area – as revealed by League Express earlier this year.
At the time, Vikings officials declined to comment on any such activity but, following the announcement last week that the club has agreed a new five-year deal to remain at their Halton Stadium home, Rule said the board eventually rejected offers of relocation and significant financial investment.
“There absolutely was genuine interest in relocating us,” Rule told League Express. “There were a number of parties – with one in particular – that were very keen to seek to invest in Widnes Vikings: but their desire was to move the club out of the borough into an area with a bigger population base.
“There, they believed it would be easier to generate the revenue streams to compete at the top end of Super League. But ultimately the board rejected the proposal.
“We are aware that there has been millions of pounds invested into this club by the existing board; particularly by Steve O’Connor, in his original rescue and rebuild of the club. It is important to also recognise the significant investment other stakeholders have made: particularly our members, supporters and sponsors. They have invested their time and money as well.
“It would have been wrong to turn away from that support and wipe it out. Truthfully, we’re delighted to have secured this new deal with the Council to help secure our long-term future.”
Rule believes that the new long-term lease arrangement with Halton Council also brings the club huge financial security, as well as lucrative new opportunities.
He said: “We’ve just announced a new five-year partnership, and that gives us real security to plan for the medium to long term.
“That deal with the Council is hugely important, because we’ve also been able to secure a new inventory that will help us develop new revenue with local businesses that will help the club to grow.
“We had to do our due diligence with these offers and give them some real thought and care. But the town deserves a Super League side and it deserves Widnes Vikings to remain in the borough.
“Whilst it was flattering to receive that interest and have someone go over our operation and be complimentary about what we’ve done, the priority was to stay. We believe we’re growing something special here.”
Widnes fans, make sure you pick up a copy of this coming Monday’s League Express – for an extended, in-depth interview with Rule on the state of the Vikings heading into 2018.