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Salford Red Devils break silence after departure of key figure to Super League rivals

Ian Blease, new Leeds Rhinos sporting director, at Salford Red Devils stadium

Salford Red Devils have confirmed a major loss to their transfer department with the departure of Director of Rugby & Operations Ian Blease.

Blease spent seven years in the role, making the club significant money with the sales of the likes of Jackson Hastings, Tyler Dupree, Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers, as well as keeping the club competing towards the top end of the table despite a small budget.

In a club statement, the club noted his long-term commitment to the Red Devils: “His departure ends a 20-year association with the club, where he has represented the Red Devils’ both on and off the pitch.

“A Salford lad through and through, Ian joined the club as a player from local side, Folly Lane ARL.

“He went on to make 272 appearances over a 12-year period, including three seasons as club captain.

“Ian also won two Second Division titles (1990-91 & 1995-96) and was part of the team who won promotion to the newly founded Super League in 1996.

“The back-row forward also reached two Lancashire Cup finals, where he scored a memorable try against Widnes in 1991.

“Since his playing days, Ian rejoined the club in 2016 as Director of Rugby.

“During his tenure, the Red Devils have reached the Betfred Super League Grand Final in 2019 and the Challenge Cup Final in 2020.”

He’s now joined Leeds Rhinos, who beat Salford to the 2020 Challenge Cup trophy, but who haven’t won a trophy since then.

It’s the club’s longest major trophy drought since waiting five years after the 1999 Challenge Cup final victory to win the 2004 Super League Grand Final.

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How Salford Red Devils reacted

Leeds Rhinos Sporting Director Ian Blease in Salford Red Devils gear

Credit: Imago Images

Salford Red Devils’ managing director, Paul King, added: “Ian has been a loyal servant to the club for over 20 years now, so it’s with some sadness that we confirm his departure.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed our last six years working together and it is a relationship that has created so many unforgettable memories.

“Old Trafford in 2019 and Wembley in 2020 are two fantastic occasions that will remain stamped in the club’s DNA throughout history, as will Ian.

“It is very difficult to deny one of the big three when they come knocking, so I fully understand his decision to leave and wish him well in the future.

“Ian, Sally and Ava have long been a part of the Salford family so match days will feel a little strange, but they will always be welcome back at the stadium and should be guaranteed a very warm, and pleasant reception when the Rhinos are in town in August – I have no doubt we will share a pint post-game.”

He continued, suggesting the way that the club will be focusing its operations following Blease’s departure: “The club will now focus on securing a stadium deal, the commencement of our Elite Academy, the 2025 squad build, the race for the playoffs and the many other exciting opportunities heading our way.”

Salford currently sit in sixth place, two points ahead of Leeds Rhinos, in the final playoff position.

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