Exclusive: Outgoing Wakefield Trinity chief Michael Carter on club takeover, IMG gradings & the drive for Super League return

Aaron Bower
Michael Carter Wakefield Trinity Alamy

Outgoing Wakefield Trinity chief executive Michael Carter - Alamy

Outgoing Wakefield Trinity chief executive Michael Carter believes the timing of the club’s takeover is ‘perfect’ for all parties and that they are well-positioned to push for an A Grade with IMG this time next year: before also promising to remain involved if new owner Matt Ellis requires any help.

Carter this week completed the sale of Trinity to local businessman Ellis, selling his majority shareholding in the club after over a decade in charge as chairman and chief executive.

Carter has also agreed to step aside in his day-to-day role as a new era gets underway at Wakefield as they prepare for life in the Championship, with Ellis telling Love Rugby League recently he plans to make the club a major force in the game once again.

Speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League for the first time since the takeover was completed, Carter admitted he was relieved but also saddened that his time at Belle Vue had come to an end, admitting he had grown to love a club he didn’t even support when he first joined as a shareholder in 2012. But he says under Ellis’ control, the future is bright for the club.

“I guess there is personally a bit of relief,” he said.

“We’ve battled against all the odds for 10 years and we had to make it self-sustainable: I couldn’t afford to pump millions of pounds in – though the irony is that over that 10 years, I’ve probably spent a couple of million of my own money.

“But there’s sadness too that I won’t be part of the club anymore.

This club get under your skin; I’m a Wakefield fan now, and all my loyalties lie with Wakefield Trinity.

“I look forward to watching Matt and the new regime build the club moving forwards.

“The foundations are there off the field and I want the transition to the new ownership to be as pain-free and friendly as it can be. That’ll help us moving forwards.”

Wakefield Trinity now in a stronger position than ever

While Wakefield were relegated at the end of this season, Carter insists the pain suffered on the field has resulted in Trinity being in a stronger position than ever off it.

He admits the club had to ‘forfeit league position’ in the last two years to ensure the club’s plans for a redeveloped Belle Vue came to fruition – which will in return secure a huge upgrade in their score with IMG this time next year.

And he said: “If we hadn’t started this stadium process, then we wouldn’t have been in Super League now anyway – the facilities weren’t up to scratch and we were on borrowed time.

“We had to get the infrastructure right and make sure this club had a base to build from.

“Next year, everyone will look forward to visiting that stadium: me included.

“That’ll be the key foundation into bouncing back to Super League under IMG.

“We didn’t get anything for the stadium this time because we don’t have a seat to sit in but on the 24th November when it’s opened, we’ll get an instant extra point because we tick the minimum standards.

“We know immediately we’re at 13.52 when that stand opens. There’s other stuff that will improve our score too and Matt has the financial muscle to make that happen.

“I hope on the field, we win the Grand Final and the 1895 Cup too to boost that further!

“But I think the club now has an owner and a team to make that push towards 15 points and an A Grade sooner, rather than later.

“I’m proud we put the foundations in place for that and I can’t thank Matt enough for coming forward to take it to the next level. During my time in charge, this is the best position we’ve been in off the field.”

From being a Hull FC fan to a Wakefield Trinity diehard

Wakefield Trinity chief executive Michael Carter Alamy Michael Carter at Belle Vue – Alamy

A Hull FC fan in his younger years, Carter cannot resist using the word ‘we’ when talking about Trinity, underlining the bond he has built with the club.

He has offered any support to Ellis that the new owner requires – and has even offered to volunteer if needed for a plethora of jobs.

“I’d happily help out – Matt knows I’m at the end of a phone,” he said. ”

“I’ve been in a lot this week doing a handover and we’re keen to see that when we get to the financial year end next month, we put the club in a good position for IMG grading.

“If Matt wants my advice for anything – even if he doesn’t take it – I’m here for Wakefield Trinity.

“I’ll help the club in any way, shape or form. If he said we needed a wall painting, I’d go down and help because I’ve grown to love the club.

“It was well-documented I was a Hull FC fan when I was younger but the club gets inside you and all my loyalties are now with Wakefield Trinity.

“I can’t thank him enough for coming along and I do wish him genuinely all the best.”

Michael Carter looking forward to attending Belle Vue as a fan to support Wakefield

Carter pointed to the back-to-back fifth-placed finishes under Chris Chester in 2017 and 2018 as highlights of his tenure, a time when Wakefield were seen to be punching above their weight at the top end of Super League.

However, he feels the club has the perfect owner in Ellis to make that a more permanent reality in the years ahead.

“In recent years we had a global pandemic, and then on the eve of a season you see 25 per cent of your Sky distribution disappear, and this year it goes down again,” he said.

“I personally wouldn’t have been able to handle that financial hit, but Matt’s got the financial prowess to cover that and put things into place I couldn’t do.

“Wakefield Trinity have been a bit of a laughing stock over the last 10 or 20 years.

“We’ve been beaten with that stick about the ground: but not anymore.

“I can’t wait to be a part of it as a fan, have a beer and watch the games and watch the club thrive under Matt and Daryl (Powell).

“It’s perfect timing for everyone, me included when it comes to stepping aside.

“There’s been some dark days, but it’s been one helluva ride.

“I’m grateful for all the good people I’ve met along the way – sponsors, fans, board members, the staff, the volunteers. Everyone.”

Michael Carter pays tribute to family as well as outgoing coach Mark Applegarth

Wakefield Trinity Mark Applegarth Alamy Outgoing Wakefield Trinity head coach Mark Applegarth – Alamy

Carter admitted he wasn’t bothered about how he was viewed by Trinity supporters, saying: “If someone had asked me a few years ago, I probably would have wanted praise but I’ve matured now.

“It’s my family, they’re who I want to look at me and think they’re proud of me.

“My mum is no longer here and I think, would she be proud of me? I believe that answer is yes.”

But Carter did want to reserve praise for one individual: outgoing coach Mark Applegarth.

“It’d be fitting for me to finish on Mash,” Carter said. “I hope people don’t just judge him on this one year.

“He had incredible odds stacked against him, we looked at the budget and what we could spend, we looked at what we could put around him and it was stacked massively against him – and we weren’t that far off surviving.

“This is a guy who came in at the start of 2016 when we were on the brink of being told we wouldn’t have an academy, but he brought through players like Tom Johnstone, Lee Kershaw, James Batchelor… bonafide Super League players.

“The guy bleeds Wakefield Trinity; he’s had other job offers he wouldn’t consider solely because he bleeds red, white and blue. Nobody should forget that.

“As for me? I look forward to catching up with everyone associated with the club: but this time as a fan, on those terraces hopefully enjoying some good times.”

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