Dear John Wilkinson I write this with a heavy heart, but I feel it’s a well intentioned letter. I have supported Salford for 17 years, as a 10 year old girl I was brought to The Willows by my Dad who had rekindled his love affair with Rugby League after spending time watching the other “Red Devils” down the road at Old Trafford .
I remember 1996 it was the first season that captured my heart and ignited a passion that I never thought could dwindle , Salford were once again a successful side, we played with passion and had a pack that had a never say die attitude, this was due to having enforcers and entertainers such as Paul Forber, Esene Fiamalo, Mark Lee and Sam Panapa. The team had a sprinkling of local lads , Andy Burgess,Cliff Eccles, Paul Southern, Ian Watson and Nathan Mcavoy to name but a few.
I could document every player of the 1996 and 1997 season and still be filled with pride.
1996 also saw the emergence of a promising teenage hooker called Malcolm Alker who eventually would go on to cement his place in the Salford History books as not just a tackling machine but a One Club man who amassed over 300 games for Salford. Malcolm not only left the club with a broken body but a broken heart after you decided to believe a malicious and untrue lie over a Man you saw grow from a boy to man and had been a father figure to for over 14 years. He gave our club his all and more , Salford broke his heart.
[ ] During our inaugural season in Super league there was a real buzz around The City of Salford , The players on the field had brought the feel good factor back and The Willows became a fortress ,there was no finer place to watch Rugby League then in the shed on a glorious Sunday afternoon. The shed was Salford’s 14th man, veracious and passionate the chants of S.A.L.F.O.R.D could be heard for miles around.
Off the field
The off field team was just as passionate you had hard working employees such as Ron Hill, Graham Carty, Andrew Bentham ,Christine James,Carolyn Derbyshire and Paula Sarsfield Who gave it their all not only to promote Salford Reds but to make sure we achieved above and beyond what was expected. As a customer you were cared for, if you called to enquire about tickets or merchandise you were greeted with a welcoming voice and accurate information. Salford represented not only value for money but a club you really felt were appreciative of your support. I would love to reminisce about our past 15 years but it would take a long time and a lot of emotions to be able to put down in words what a roller coaster it really has been.
I have the utmost respect for you and your family. It is with great respect that yourself and Howard Clague have undoubtably saved the Reds from the clutches of liquidation and spent money that could of given you a very different life. It’s understandable that many times you may of been tempted to pull the plug from Salford RLFC after years of heartache, financial struggles and underachievement. I believe I can speak for not only myself but every other Salford RLFC supporter when I say we will forever be in your debt , the bottom line is we have a club to support because of your loyalty.
My concern is this, Since 2006 Salford have been in free fall not just ON the field but more so OFF the field, it appears that we make mistakes time after time, in 2007 we hired Trish Goldsmith who despite her fiery nature and strict management style was a revelation , she could see the potential we had as a sporting organisation and made great strides with recruiting high profile sponsorship and reintroducing a scheme called The Golden Angel which resulted in over 7000 people attending a Salford Vs Swinton friendly , a figure that we haven’t broken that often even when the likes of Wigan or ST.Helens visit Salford.
I don’t profess to know the inside story but once more after a short time in the boardroom Trish disappeared and we went back to being passive and mediocre .
Need i say anything about The fact that Shaun McRae was given a 4 year contract which was a mistake we all saw coming and a mistake that I believe we are still trying to recover from.
In 2009 We sold Richie Myler and Jordan Turner who have both gone on to have a successful career with Warrington and Hull FC respectively .
Under Mcraes Tenure we allowed warriors such as Luke Swain, Ray Cashmere and Craig Stapleton leave whilst signing players such as Phil Bailey,Willie Talau and Jeremy Smith of which one player didn’t even manage to pull on a Salford Shirt instead retiring due to a longstanding injury.
Our final ever season at The Willows was an utter disgrace from start to finish
Off the field Malcolm Alker was sent home and suspended and later ultimately deemed Not Guilty of any misdemeanour’s. Shaun Mcrae Left with stress related illness
Phil Vievers was deemed unsuitable for Head Coach after a relatively successful spell as caretaker coach ,Matt Parish arrived out of nowhere and according to some was a breathe of fresh air, controversial maybe but told it as he saw fit.. 6 weeks later he was on a plane home, then suddenly Phil Vievers is then deemed good enough? For that alone Phil deserves respect
We have suffered the loss Stefan Ratchford too Warrington , one of the brightest young talents to come out of our academy since Paul Groves and the club failed too do all we could to keep him.
The Media and Marketing of our club in my opinion is severely inadequate and unacceptable for a full time professional organisation. Our last season at The Willows commercially was a disaster , I understand we have a shoe string budget but knowing how much The Willows meant to thousands of Salford supporters ,it is unforgivable that no merchandise was designed and sold as a memento of our famous old ground . When Hull FC left the boulevard there was a real sense of excitement and they left The Boulevard in style and allowed supporters to purchase parts of the ground so they have a treasured keepsake. Salford had fireworks during daylight…with all due respect who agreed to that?
Salford promised it’s supporters a wall mounted and pressed piece of Willows Turf if they purchased a Season Ticket , many supporters took this option with a happy heart knowing that they had their very own piece of The Willows long after it’s gone.
We are now 9 months into the 2012 season. The Willows is nothing but a waste ground full of twisted iron, and bricks , but even with this image supporters are growing increasingly irate that the Turf we were promised has yet to surface nor any statement regarding the delay.It may only be a patch of Grass to some but too many that grass was a loved ones final resting place and its only right and respectful that peoples questions and complaints are listened to and honoured
To treat paying customers in such a way is incredibly disrespectful and unprofessional.
May I bring some concerns to your attention
- The online shop was not ready until we were half way through the season thus resulting in lost revenue for the club
- The exit of our Chief executive during the season leaving the club without a leader at the top although it’s a decision I believe ultimately was correct after 20 years of mismanagement
- Barring Malcolm Alker from The Last ever game at The Willows was not only sad and hurtful but was disrespectful to the supporters and his family
- The issue that Paul Highton never received a Testimonal match after 11 years with the Reds is a despicable way to treat such a passionate and loyal servant
- No Official confirmation or letter of gratitude for Season Ticket holders whom purchased the(expensive) 5 year season ticket pass
- Our club historian Graham Morris actually having to pay for a season ticket , surely people like Graham Morris should be treated with the respect they deserve
- Still No Junior Red Devils membership despite promises from the media department that this was in the pipeline. No Squad Posters, No relationship between the players and our Junior supporters
- A poorly produced and published Matchday magazine that offers nothing but sponsorship information,Advertisements and a badly advised column with our club chaplain which in all due respect has no place in a sporting magazine , We purchase a match day magazine to read informative articles about our players, not to be presented with religious connotations
- A well respected and lifelong Salford Supporter Robert Potts forwarded an incredibly informative and positive document about how Salford and Sale can work in unity , a document which never received a reply from Salford RLFC but one which was applauded by the chief executive of Sale Mick Hogan and the Salford Mayor Ian Stewart
- The 2012 membership has been nothing but a farce from the start, Incorrect passes being sent out to the wrong people , passes not working on a match day ,passes not turning up followed by the inability to contact the club directly
- Club merchandise being sold with the Devil embroidered on it , whilst this is a positive inventive and a nod to our past heritage, it has so far been ineffective when the club did not introduce this range with a launch and using it’s social networking site to offer discounts etc.
- Confusion regarding Whom exactly is in charge of the distribution and management of match day tickets.
- Car parking chaos and lack of leadership on the Site
- Signing a contract for the players to train at Total Fitness when we have Your Gym situated inside Salford City Stadium
- The players of Salford City Reds training at Leigh Sports Village when have perfectly adequate facilities at our home ground
- The aggressive and over zealous nature of the match day G4s security who are poorly skilled in customer relations which has resulted in lifelong supporters deciding to stay away from the S.C.S
- Having a twitter account that hasn’t been used for several months Despite having 3’647 followers/ potential customers
- Lack of communication between the Club and The Players, Players using social networking platforms to express their frustration with how the club is managed
- Squad members abusing Supporters using the aforementioned social networking site, despite this being brought to the attention of the club no apologies were issued
- Well respected players such as Luke Patten (who is soon to become a players agent) having no alternative but to use his newspaper column to express his concerns about how Salford are mismanaged
- With 1 home game left still no announcement has been given about the end of year players awards which in essence should be announced before the last game of the season
- Selling one of our most pivotal and marketable players (Matty Smith) whilst we were still in a position to make the play offs thus not only damaging and distributing the on field progression but also Team Spirit and belief.
- Denying rumours of financial trouble whilst at the same time allowing Phil Vievers to loose the backbone of his side and star players to rival clubs.
- The M.E.N reported that Vievers still isn’t aware of what his budget will be for 2013
- The unbelievable Failure to not only fail to have a club representative but also any promotional material for upcoming Salford Games when Salford City Stadium hosted one of the biggest car boots ever seen in conjunction with The hugely successful Radio Stations (Real Radio) that was attended by thousands of potential customers.
- Lack of consultancy with the supporters regarding the stadium and it’s amenities such as kiosks, seating plans etc
- The professional way in which Sale sharks have managed their transition to The Salford City Stadium resulting in Sale already appearing to be the better run orginisation
- Lack of support for former Reds player Andy Johnson and his Joining Jack campaign Despite the rest of the RL community holding fundraising days and selling merchandise to help his family at this critical time. Could the Wakefield game not of been marketed as The Joining Jack day in which a lot of money could of been raised for a great cause.
I could continue on with my points of view, as I understand it you are currently seeking investment for the long term future of Salford City Reds RLFC I wish you luck with this search but please take notice of these concerns before more of our long suffering loyal supporters decide that enough is enough and vote with their feet.
We can once more be a proud successful club but only when we are fit for purpose OFF the field, just one look at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats will show you that you can be successful despite limited resources , this is achievable with heart and passion something I’m afraid to say left our club a long time ago.
I await your reply
Yours in sport,
Myself and Paul Carige 1999