After failing to finish in the Betfred Championship’s top four in 2018 and, with that, missing out on a spot in The Qualifiers, Leigh Centurions’ owner Derek Beaumont saw fit to cut costs at the club.
With one game remaining before the league split, the transfer deadline arrived and, in order to see the season through, the club had to allow many of its’ highest earners to leave the club – despite there still being an outside chance of making the top four. At the same time, Beaumont put the club up for sale and admitted that, without new investment, the club wouldn’t be able to continue in the same fashion as it had in recent years.
Tonight, with further investment or a takeover having thus far not materialised, the club’s owner admitted that Leigh’s future as a professional club is in serious doubt. Appearing on BBC Radio Manchester, Beaumont explained that part of the reason for that is down to the club having not yet agreed severance terms with two of their players, players who the owner revealed have to leave the club for financial reasons. “There’s no way it can survive if it’s got to pay two players full time,” he explained, adding that “when 40% of your playing budget would be taken up by those two players, that you’re trying to arrange to move on, it leaves very small amount of money to recruit 20 players.” He further imparted that, with that remaining money to build a squad, the Centurions would struggle to survive in the second tier.
It marks a total reversal of fortunes in recent years for the Leigh club who, under Beaumont, have experienced success. From 2014, the Centurions finished top of the second tier for three consecutive years and, in 2016, won promotion to Super League. That stay was to last merely one year however and, having blown a lead in the Million Pound Game in 2017, they were relegated at the hands of Catalans Dragons.
Despite recruiting impressively in the off-season in preparation of challenging for an immediate return to the top flight, a poor start to the season ultimately made a top four finish just too much for the Centurions and now the club’s future is uncertain. Currently, they have no players on their books as well as having no coach. They have been hit with RFL imposed sanctions which will not be lifted until the club have resolved the dispute with the two unnamed players, sanctions which restrict them from signing any players.
If resolutions can’t be agreed, there is genuine concern that the club could fold. “If it does have to start again because it can’t honour contracts that are too much, I will feel some personal responsibility towards that,” he explained, stating that, should the club be taken to court, he will strive to continue the club in some form.