With the recent COVID-19 vaccination programs running throughout the UK and indeed the world, it has been one of the most divisive issues throughout society.
The same can be said of in rugby league as well, with Super League and the RFL urging players to get the vaccine, though compulsory vaccination has not been introduced like in the NRL.
But, for Leigh Centurions owner, Derek Beaumont, the idea of a compulsory is one that should never come to fruition.
“There can never be a law that decides what someone does with their own personal body,” Beaumont told Serious About Rugby League.
“That just goes against the whole of humanity and what people over centuries have stood for. If there is one thing you retain your right to do in the world and in life is to determine what is put in your body.
“The only person that has an adverse effect on is you – if the vaccine works it protects the individual, there are loads of people triple jabbed with Covid, my mother-in-law is one.
“It’s spreading like wildfire, irrespective of the vaccine there is no moral obligation or social responsibility to have it, its nobody’s business.”
Beaumont also believes that the French government rules – making vaccines compulsory for all sportsmen entering the country – is completely wrong.
“What France are doing is ridiculous and ultimately this is a UK competition governed by a UK governing body and therefore our rules should be what are abided by.
“If France cannot allow our players to go there then because some of our players are not vaccinated then they can’t compete or they come and play the games over here.
“You can’t have teams disadvantaged going over playing Toulouse or Catalans because some of their players are deciding to follow the rules in our country and not take the vaccine for whatever reason.”
The Leigh Centurions owner also believes that the world needs to ‘move on’.
“People have got good reasons to decide not to have it, they’ve had Covid and not been unwell. There have been no rugby players hospitalised with Covid, yet we’ve seen all the games over the last two years being cancelled and disrupted and the number of figures of positive cases so there’s not a problem anyway.
“Would you want an athlete to put something in their body that was produced in nine moths of an unknown virus becoming known and mass produced. The world needs to move on, what is wrong is treating unvaccinated people differently to vaccinated people?”
Back to speaking about rugby, Beaumont has defended himself against those who have criticised his approach to spending at the Leigh Sports Village, though the Centurions owner does admit he needs to change his overall approach.
“At the end of the day I’m a passionate fan who is fortunate enough to improve the club by using my money,” Beaumont told Serious About Rugby League.
“I’m sure many people would do the same if they were in this position. I’ve got the club in Super League three times so it’s not about that, it’s about being sustainable in Super League.
“Where do clubs keep finding these people from? If they don’t find people like that they end up like, no disrespect, a Swinton or Rochdale or Oldham who have been big in the past.
“What I want to do is make sure I achieve something that doesn’t end up like that in future years. I want a club that is sustainable in its own right as a Super League club with a good facility with a decent fanbase.
“I want to tap into local talent and the amateur clubs and produce our own players, that comes after the sustainability in Super League.”
For now, though, the lack of a quota for overseas players in the Championship means that Beaumont has been able to attract considerable talent such as Caleb Aekins, Tom Amone, John Asiata, Blake Ferguson and Edwin Ipape
But, it’s the lateness of recruitment that Beaumont feels is the sticking point for any newly-promoted side.
“The season just gone, you’ve got 12 clubs, 11 clubs were given £1.9 million and told to go the supermarket where all the players go whilst the 12th club was kept outside and told to go in when there are no players left.
“We had a go, but something has to be different – if all we do is put a team together that can win the Championship but not compete in Super League, then you’ve then got to make massive changes as you’re just going to yo-yo.
“There’s always someone like Toronto, Toulouse and this time it’s Fev who spend a lot to get there. I’ve got to put a significant amount of money this year – and I will do.
“It’s the biggest part of the game and each time we have got in Super League the reason we haven’t been successful is because we’ve been far too late to recruit.”
Despite all this and the well documented financial issues in 2018, Beuamont still keeps putting his hand in his pocket and admits he has learnt a lot from the past and the club’s struggles.
“The big issue I had in 2018 was that I had players on two or three-year contracts and then we didn’t even make the Championship play-offs,” Beaumont told Serious About Rugby League. “And it became a massive void that was insurmountable when you’ve got a two million pound gap.
“The lesson learnt from that is I’ve just given one-year contracts so ultimately at the end of the season if we don’t succeed, the club isn’t in a perilous position if I didn’t have the appetite to continue.”
Beaumont is, however, determined to help Leigh reach the top flight once more.
“It’s been ten years since I got hold of the club and we’ve had highs and lows and we’ve had a go in Super League twice and come down. We had the hassle in 2018 and I’m not giving up as everything I’ve spent so far would be in vain if I did that.”
The outspoken owner also knows that he needs to build a side that can stay together if Super League promotion does happen.
“We still are trying to bring in more quality so when we get to the end of the season we don’t need to change all our players bar five this year. We will probably be adding five and we want to be in the top half of Super League.
“I’ve got to put in a significant amount of money this year which is what I am doing.”
Among those names mentioned, Anthony Gelling, Josh Dugan and Corey Norman were all in talks with Beaumont at one stage or another, but one who wasn’t was Lachlan Lam.
The Sydney Roosters halfback was presumably linked to Leigh because his father, Adrian, is now in charge. But, Beaumont has revealed that there was never any truth in that.
“That one has never been mentioned or on the horizon – that was just talk.”
Speaking on the game as a whole, as one who is never shy in sharing his opinion, Beaumont has called for two major rule changes to br brought in to help the sport become more exciting to watch.
“I think we need to change some of the rules of the game,” Beaumont said. “Number one, I think there is too much emphasis placed on the referees, the job they have to do is far too difficult when you look at the decisions in a split second.
“The problem a lot of people have got in the game, they referee as well as they can and what they see and they make mistakes just like players – ultimately, though, if they get a decision wrong and that’s piggybacking team out of yardage into good ball.
“Say, for example, you could give offside at almost every play but then if they do and it’s on play five it’s a massive thing. Why should the punishment be so severe if someone is offside – they do gain an advantage and there needs to be a consequence to it.
“If Leigh are offside on play four coming out of yardage why doesn’t the referee leave it at play four from where the person was offside and they play the ball there.
“So the team has gained an advantage from the other side being offside but it doesn’t alter the whole weight of the game – the punishment is way too excessive for what is potentially gained.”
Beaumont also went on to describe what his second rule change would be.
“I don’t understand why, if you knock the ball on, you have to give it straight away to the other team. Say Leigh are on play three, carry the ball and knock the ball on but bounce back on it they should now be on play four from when they’ve landed on it.
“You’ve gained no advantage but you’re still able to complete your set, people would be more inclined to pass the ball about and be more expansive especially coming out of yardage.”
As for the structure of the sport, Beaumont has also called for changes, suggesting a new structure altogether could help revitalise the sport while calling for changes to refereeing and the disciplinary process.
“I’m hoping we go into two groups of tens and I think that would be good for the game,” Beaumont said. “Also, the job that referees have to do is far too difficult – look at all the decisions they have to make in a split second.
“The ball gets kicked off, the referee has to think ‘is everyone behind the ball?’ ‘Did the ball get caught cleanly?’ ‘Was the tackle high?’ ‘Is the ruck clean?’ ‘Has he got up right?’ ‘Has he played it correctly?’ ‘Is the team offside?’ ‘Is it a forward pass?’ All of that has gone on in the first ten seconds of the game.”
“Then the disciplinary. We are micro-analysing the games too much after the event – we are sterilising the game.
“Players are frightened to death of everything and then somebody rings you up on Monday morning saying this player in on a charge for things that are dealt with in the game.
“If the game has gone the game has gone – you are actually benefiting the team that plays that team next and not the team that could have gained the advantage during the game.
“The inconsistency is difficult; it’s a difficult job, but it can be made easier by doing less of it. If it isn’t dealt with by the referee on the field it’s gone and it’s not been dealt with.”
Finally, the outspoken Leigh owner gave his predictions on who he believes will take home the Super League title this season, while also expressing his surprise at why certain clubs have still yet to lift the trophy.
“I think the difficulty at winning is down to recruitment, once you’ve got the players and the infrastructure below you then you are in the driving seat,” Beaumont told Serious About Rugby League.
“When you’ve got the certainty that you are not in a relegation battle you can get into your stride – Saints, for example, tie their player super early doors and then they add and tweak bits to it.
“I look at those top clubs and I’m surprised Warrington have never done it, you look at who they’ve got and what they spend and what they do for the game. And, I think Hull FC in the past should haven got there with some of the playing rosters they’ve had.
“However, this season, I find it hard to look past St Helens winning again because they have the best squad and are currently the best run club in the game season in season out.”
Derek is absolutely spot on. 👍👍👍