Leigh Leopards’ owner Derek Beaumont believes that their Challenge Cup triumph will benefit thousands of people in the local community.
In the 2021 census carried out, Leigh’s population was reported to be just more than 45,000.
For context, virtually two times that would have been able to go into Wembley on Saturday to see the Leopards beat Hull KR in the most dramatic Challenge Cup final of recent times.
As it turned out, just under 60,000 were in position under the arch to watch Lachlan Lam’s drop goal in golden point extra-time, with just under 20,000 – or around a third of the Greater Manchester town – making the journey from Leigh.
It’s worth noting that circa 5,000 ticket holders didn’t make it to Wembley due to a serious crash on the M1, which caused lengthy delays for those travelling southbound.
Derek Beaumont wants Leigh Leopards success to breathe new life into the town
After the Leopards’ party in the capital ended, they headed back north for a homecoming parade on Sunday afternoon, with thousands of supporters – and locals too – packing the streets of not just Leigh but surrounding areas in the borough including Atherton and Tyldesley.
24 hours or so before, Beaumont – who moved to the area from nearby Little Hulton as a child – spoke about how the success being enjoyed by the team and the club at present can be beneficial to everyone in Leigh – supporters or not.
He said: “I think all towns struggle. With the town centres nowadays, everything is moving out to the suburbs and outlet malls and things like that. Ours is one of those.
“I desperately don’t want to see it dying, we are a 45-50,000 population, and the rugby club is our identity.
“It’s massively important because it raises our profile significantly in all aspects, and it will drive traffic to it.
“I think it will add crowds and the rugby getting bigger with more people (in attendance at games) gets people around the pubs and restaurants and things around the ground, so it’s massive on the economical spectrum.”
‘I’ve spent every day with a newspaper or TV camera this week’
Never shy of the spotlight, Leopards’ owner Beaumont relieved Adrian Lam and his squad of some of their media duties over the week leading up to the final, and took them himself.
It’s worth noting that Lam and his team obviously did make media appearances, including at last Monday’s pre-final presser day in Brighouse, but Beaumont made it his responsibility to get as many people involved as he could.
There were appearances on Sky Sports, BBC, Granada Reports and on local radio amongst many others. He wants that level of coverage to continue though, one of the main reasons behind his decision to rebrand the club ahead of 2023.
“It’s massive,” said the Leigh owner who also sponsors the 1895 Cup through his company AB Sundecks.
“I think we’ve covered the media pretty well this week, I’ve worked really hard at it. I’ve spent every day either with a newspaper or a TV camera.
“Doing the (BBC) breakfast show on the day we left in the morning was a tough one because I had to be there at 6am, but I don’t mind being the frontman for it. It’s all about the players, people go on about the rebrand but it comes on the back of performances.
“If they weren’t there and we were bottom of the league, the rebrand would be rubbish. I’ve worked hard on the media and I think we need to do that more as a sport.”
Leigh Leopards owner sends message to locals: ‘Keep dreaming, eventually you can get there’
Before he headed back up to watch the 1895 Cup final between Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs, the Leopards’ chief had one last message to send out to the locals of Leigh, and in particular those of a younger generation who were witnessing the club succeed at the top of the game for the first time.
Many children from the community were in attendance under the arch, including some who currently play for local amateur sides including Leigh Miners, Leigh East and Golborne Parkside, all of whom are part of the professional club’s long-term vision.
Beaumont said: “The kids are everybodies future, aren’t they? It’s important for the grassroots game.
“It’s important we were able to bring 500 disadvantaged people from disadvantaged families (here today), and hopefully that inspires some of them, either to play the game or just get involved in some way or believe that there’s hope.
“You can achieve anything if you work hard and you believe, you keep dreaming, you keep seeing it, you keep wanting it, you keep aspiring for it, you keep telling yourself you are going to do it, eventually you can get there.
“It might seem impossible, but even if it is, you never lose until you give up trying, and if you don’t give up trying, then you die trying so you never lose and that’s a right that we all have.”