RFL state Leigh must fulfil Featherstone fixture despite only having 7 fit players

Leigh Centurions have this afternoon released a statement directed towards the RFL who have stated the club must fulfil this weekend’s Championship Shield Final fixture against Featherstone Rovers despite only having 7 fit players for the match.

The statement released on the Leigh Centurions website reads:

The Board can confirm that it is continuing to restructure the Club in order to ensure that it can be sustainable for future seasons. To date, no investors have expressed an interest in the Club and therefore the Board continue to attempt to reduce its liabilities to protect its future.

The Board is liaising with all Club stakeholders, including several remaining players, in order it can meet its ongoing obligations. The Board has also corresponded with Leigh Sports Village and is awaiting a response from this key stakeholder. Any alleged relic debts to them remain disputed, not unpaid. It has also met with its MP Jo Platt and the RFL President and Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham in a bid to assist but has not had a response to two pieces of correspondence further to the meeting.

In relation to the Dewsbury Rams fixture (30 September 2018), we can confirm that concerns were raised with the RFL regarding player welfare after the Board were made aware that due to unprecedented injuries, the Club would only be able to field 13 players. After expressing our serious concerns, the RFL confirmed that the Club had to fulfil this fixture as it had sufficient players under Operational Rules.

As part of the restructure, the Board had offered current players and staff a deal in an attempt to ensure that all players and staff could be paid from available funds, explaining that the players/staff agreeing to such deals would take priority on payments. The Board continues to liaise with players to attempt to resolve the current situation. The Club can confirm that with the exception of the six players who have not accepted an offer, all personnel on field and off field were paid in full and on time. Rumours to the contrary are wholly incorrect and unfounded. Furthermore the Club is committed to immediately pay out any further offers that are accepted. The Club can also confirm that two players, having received their payments in full on Friday have left the country without authority and were selected for the Dewsbury fixture.

The Club also points out that against Dewsbury four of the six players who haven’t accepted the Club’s offer played in that fixture with the other two being injured. At no time has any player refused to play for the Club, save for the two players having gone absent without leave having been paid in full. Once known the Club could not make the play-offs and therefore sustain its contractual liabilities it immediately acted to attempt to ensure the Club’s short and medium-term future. At the same time, it ensured that the coaching team had a squad of 25 players for the remainder of the season by adding three players on loan from Hull KR plus one from Huddersfield Giants along with some trialists ahead of the RFL registration deadline. After doing this the coaching staff were confident that the squad was strong enough and deep enough to complete the season and indeed win the Shield that it was left playing for.

Unfortunately, the Club has faced unprecedented injuries and the position has worsened after the Dewsbury fixture. At the time of writing the Club only has nine players available for selection for the Shield Final against Featherstone Rovers on Sunday 7 October with the possibility for three more to be declared fit after a fitness test on Saturday. Unfortunately, injuries are a common part of rugby league and cannot be predicted. Indeed, we lost two players during the game against Dewsbury and it is a concern of the Club in its duty of care to its players to enter into a professional fixture with nine players, two of whom are amateur players.

To this end the Club has sought clarification from the governing body and has been advised that if it doesn’t fulfil the fixture with its nine available players it will face a misconduct charge. The Club cannot put itself in a position of facing a misconduct charge and the potential of a significant financial penalty so finds itself in between a rock and a hard place. The Club Chairman and Owner have both spoken personally with the RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer in a plea to find some common sense as there is a genuine concern for player safety along with the potential for a hostile situation being created should further injuries occur during the game causing it to be abandoned when people will have travelled and paid their hard-earned money to gain entry to the game.

This is an extremely disappointing position that the Club finds itself in and one that simply cannot be avoided. The Club has also offered medical evidence in relation to the injuries. The Club apologises profusely to its fans for the situation it currently finds itself in. A further statement will be made the week after next once the playing season has been concluded for all clubs.