New Wakefield owner Matt Ellis has promised to deliver a sustainable long-term future for the club and has stressed he will invest millions to make that happen: before issuing a clarion call to Trinity supporters to back his new-look vision.
Ellis, speaking in the second half of an exclusive interview with Love Rugby League, has admitted he plans to take a central role in building a bright future at Wakefield as owner and chief executive.
He will, however, appoint a number of key individuals to roles while also strengthening the club’s backroom and support staff.
He plans to unveil a brand new ticketing initiative that he says will have ‘the most competitive price points’ in the sport, which will also come with the opportunity for fans to invest more if they can afford to, and be rewarded sufficiently.
But he stressed that his long-term goal is to build Wakefield into a club that can both remain sustainable, as it was under the tenure of Michael Carter, and also competitive at the top of the sport.
He said: “I want the club to be sustainable but that’s because over the next five years, we put a team together that people want to come and watch. Then it will be sustainable in its own right.
“I’m putting a team together that aims to fill that stadium.
“It’s a big ask from where we are now but in the business world, I’m ambitious and the same applies for Wakefield Trinity.
“Next year, we’re going to do something different with a season ticket model that’s different where people can not only pay monthly, but there’ll be different price points based on the stand you’re in.
“It’ll be the most competitive price point in rugby league because I want to get the interest up so that when they see what we’re doing at the club, they stay for years to come.”
Matt Ellis to invest in excess of £1.5m in first year of Wakefield ownership
Ellis estimates he will invest at least £1.5million of his own money in his first year of ownership.
The bulk of that will go on building a squad capable of winning the Championship and giving Trinity a strong chance of returning to Super League in 2025 via a good grading from IMG – but he will also invest off the field, too.
“Next year, it will cost me over a million pounds of my own money because that’s to build the squad and progress with some of my new ideas,” he said.
“Building a brand-new supporter app, the cost alone for the development of that and a website is £200,000 but it’s a long-term investment.
“We’ve been low in backroom staff; Mark Applegarth didn’t have an assistant for large periods of the year so there’s going to be an investment there, there’ll be another on the field.
“In reality, it’s more like £1.4million or £1.5million when all is said and done.
“I’ll spend a million on playing and coaching and then there’s off-field stuff on top.
“But people follow a winning team; Michael (Carter) spoke about getting 6,500 supporters – well we can do that if we’re winning.
“I’m going to try hit it with both barrels, get the fans a winning team and get them a good match-day experience.
“The stadium now, with the work the club has done in regards to getting it sorted, is great. It’s not fully sorted, there’s still rough edges around the ground but we’ll try and make it even better.
“We’ll put some concession stands behind the North Stand so you can get a beer while you’re watching the game – the match-day experience could be better and that’s a goal of mine. From IMG’s point of view, the ground is pretty much where they would want it to be.
“But I’ve got a lot of people in my kitchen business with expertise in areas like marketing and media.
“We’ll have a new supporter app coming out, and I’m aiming to get full information to supporters about our vision for the club: they’ll be a real part of it, we won’t be keeping it quiet.
“We want to link up with local businesses to get discounts for Trinity supporters and the idea is you can support Wakefield Trinity and get money back as a result if you support local businesses.”
Trinity to introduce ‘unique ticketing model’ with aim to attract bigger crowds
Ellis said ticketing prices for 2024 will be announced in the coming weeks, but has promised they will be affordable and innovative at the same time.
He said: “We’re hoping the fans get behind what will be a unique ticketing model where each area of the ground is a minimum admission price and then there’s a sliding scale, so if you can afford a bit more, you chip a bit more in.
“If you chip a bit more in, say £3 extra a week, you get a reward like a home shirt or something like that.
“Then if you’re in an area that costs £120 for the year but you pay £150, you get a reward.
“It makes the fans feel a bit more in control of the club because their money is going directly into reinvesting in the club.”
Wakefield’s drive to keep their best players, with major investment in academy
And Ellis has also promised Trinity supporters that he will invest into areas of the club like the academy system, plus their women’s and PDRL teams – with one of his main goals to ensure the club retains its top talent in the years ahead.
“The foundation and supporting that is massive for me but again, I want to do it bigger and better,” he said.
“Leeds, St Helens and Wigan have success built on youth players and Wakefield have a great record in terms of producing talent but we lose them all. That isn’t happening moving forwards, I promise you that.
“The next Tom Johnstone won’t be leaving Wakefield because they’ll know they can get the right financial package and they can win something. That’s why we’re losing them, because they think we’re aiming for second-bottom.
“Moving forwards, your Batchelors and Johnstones of this world will not be leaving. That’s one of the things I’m determined to deliver.”