The London Broncos owner David Hughes has released a statement following the start of pre-season.
The statement reads: As our Club enters an exciting new period in its history, making the move to the Cherry Red Records stadium in Wimbledon, I feel that now is the right time to give the supporters of the London Broncos an update on our plans and vision for the next chapter of Rugby League in London.
During my many years at the helm of this great Club, 25 years in fact, we have seen a number of wonderful players wear the shirt and we all have some terrific memories of moments we’ve witnessed that will always be a part of the Clubs folklore.
However, with the recent global pandemic taking it’s toll on many industries as well as the game of Rugby League we have had a very difficult, and at times miserable, period to contend with that none of us could predict 2 years ago when we were relegated from Super League with a points tally that in most seasons would have kept us comfortably in the top flight.
I have always supported this Club financially and will continue to do so. My son Jack is a huge supporter of the Club and our family care enormously about the future of Rugby League in London, but with the cut in central funding for 2022 at around 80% and a previous 12 months where we saw attendances and fixtures decimated by Covid I felt that now was the sensible time to action a plan that will protect the long term future of the London Broncos.
There have been wholesale changes around the Club in terms of Staff and Players, we are making the move to Wimbledon to play in the wonderful Cherry Red Records Stadium, and we have started the process of restructuring our youth set up and Community Club links.
For our Club to get back to the Super League, and to rekindle some of those memories we all have, there will need to be a period of re-building, laying strong foundations, and that period is starting now but we will need all of you to help us make this work.
I’ve appointed a young, highly spoken of, Head Coach who is impressing me with his enthusiasm during the transition to part-time and I am genuinely delighted with the squad we have assembled on the budget we have allocated him. There are some very talented players in there alongside the experienced older heads that every team needs to bring on the younger players. We’ve also got a number of hungry ‘project’ players that could prove to be astute signings from the league below us. There is no doubt that at times we will face sides much stronger than us and we will have to strap in and give our players the backing they need in every game this coming season.
Once again we have promoted a handful of players from our Academy and this pathway has to be preserved for the long term future of Professional Rugby League in London.
There will be occasions, as with Ramon Silva only last week, when a Super League Club see one of our Academy kids in a competitive fixture and make a move for them before they even make our first team. Unfortunately that is the game of Rugby League and it is difficult to stand in the way of a young man who has a leading Club offering him a contract. We do all we can to make early offers to our young players and will use the Reserves competition this year to try and secure the most talented players in our Academy much earlier.
Away from the field we are continuing to secure good sponsorships and partnerships with companies and that this years shirt sponsorship total is the highest financial package since 2014 shows that there are businesses willing to get behind the Broncos, even after such tough times for so many. The corporate facilities at the stadium are going to give us further opportunities in this area and will be a significant improvement on what we can offer corporate clients and our Business Club members. Our Commercial team are being pushed and challenged to increase this continuously as it is an integral part of a long term future.
Our Ladies team is getting ready to play its second season and this addition to the London Broncos family was a rare positive in what turned out to be ultimately a disappointing 2021 season for the Club. I’m sure Colin and his squad will go from strength to strength this coming year and I am looking forward to seeing more of them, hopefully getting to a game in 2022.
And then probably the most positive move of all for me, the relocation of the match days to Wimbledon and the new stadium built by AFC Wimbledon. I’m fully aware that some have questioned this move. I’m also fully aware that our Club has moved around far too much in the past, sometimes not within our own control of course. But I want to be clear that this move is the best opportunity the London Broncos has for long term survival. There is no other option available to us like this one.
Yes, we could play at a second or third tier Rugby Union venue but what is the long term option for that? We could have played at a non-league football club in recent years with the low numbers coming through the gates due to a mixture of Covid and poor displays on the field. But once again, where do we go from there in 5 years time?
Plough Lane, or to give it the correct name of the Cherry Red Records stadium, is going to give us the opportunity to develop a crowd over a period of time that eventually will see the Club become self sufficient, or very close to being so.
5000 fans in 3 years has to be the target. That is where we need to be and we have got the best chance of achieving that in the Wimbledon area and with AFC Wimbledon Football Club as partners in my opinion.
This will not be easy. It will not happen overnight. There will be occasions when it may appear to not be working but we need every supporter of our Club, every fan of the great sport of Rugby League in the South East of England, to get behind this move and help to make the most of this opportunity we are presented with. If you are a former pass holder or spectator please take this chance to come back and engage with the Club. If you’re a pass holder or current attendee then bring a friend, introduce a colleague to our sport and most of all spread the word of the Broncos when you can.
There are so many other ways you can assist the Club. We have reduced the cost of Player Sponsorships and introduced a new training kit option for entry level sponsors. There is the Squad Builder fund which will give away a Corporate Hospitality Box for every game, not something many Squad Builder funds offer elsewhere. By supporting these two things alone can cover the costs of 3 or 4 players for 2023.
You can support the Clubs Academy system by playing the Community Rugby League Lotto, even just a pound each week. The Supporters Groups LBSA and BOSG offer you ways to generate revenue for the Club, reach out to them and offer yourself up as a volunteer.
I will end by reiterating my earlier statement. I am as committed to the London Broncos as ever and will give my backing to the necessary restructuring and evolution at the Club but we need your support too.
This is not a project for today it is a project for tomorrow.