Widnes chief says they’re in a strong position; but supports calls for government help

James Gordon

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

Widnes chief executive Phil Finney says their turbulent experience of 2019 has left the club well prepared for the uncertainty of the current situation.

It was announced on Monday that all rugby league would be suspended until April 3 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finney stepped up to the role of CEO after the Vikings were rescued from administration by a consortium of local businessmen and a fans fundraising campaign, which saved the club from liquidation.

He told BBC Radio Merseyside: “We’re in a fortunate position because of the circumstances that we went through last year, where we’ve been very conservative and very careful this year.

“We’re in a strong position I feel. The fixtures we had coming up were Sheffield away and then Toulouse at home, which isn’t a particularly lucrative gate for us, so we’ve been quite fortunate in that respect.

“We played Swinton at the weekend, and they’ve still not had a home game (except against amateur side Leigh Miners in the Challenge Cup), and still have two more to play that were postponed.

“There’s a lot of clubs, probably including certain Super League clubs, that are in a worse position than us.

“In professional sport, it’s about entertainment and getting people through the gates, so it will have a significant impact on the sport.”

There are fears that some clubs could go out of business, with St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus saying that the future of the entire sport is at risk.

Finney added: “That’s quite a strong opinion, I don’t know whether the existence of the sport is under threat at this stage.

“How long is a piece of string? None of us know how it’s going to progress and how long it’s going to be, whether  it’s going to be suspended beyond April 3 or whether they’ll impose sanctions like playing behind closed doors or maximum attendances.

“It’s a well known fact that we aren’t a well resourced sport anyway, the governing body aren’t very affluent, and a lot of clubs live hand to mouth, week to week.

“What the governing body have got to do now is speak to the government and see if there is a package of support, and alleviate some of the fears clubs are going through at the moment.”