This week The Rugby League Fan Club (RLFC) had the chance to catch up with Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont.
The RLFC asked fans to submit question via their Facebook page.
First of all Derek, it’s great to see you and we are very grateful that you have agreed to take part in this interview today.
We are guessing the club has been very busy since your recent promotion into the Super League?
“You will be pleasantly surprised that the busiest time is actually in the off season. We have been busy sorting out training plans and rosters for fitness, conditioning and testing. Also we have been busy creating PowerPoint presentations for the players. My biggest involvement is the recruitment, I started recruiting at the back end of the season to prepare for the 8’s and I am still busy dealing with it now.”
What are your expectations for the 2017 campaign?
“Surviving the Super League, that’s where it starts, small steps at a time, I’m not putting too much pressure on the boys but obviously we do have the desire to win games. A big achievement would be to not get involved in qualifiers next year. We have set our goal at 8 and we would be delighted with 8 and that’s not saying we don’t have the desire to be in the top 4, but I am a realist and we would like to cement our position in the top 8 then build on what we have got for the future.”
The Rugby League Fan Club and our followers have named you as the 2016 outstanding achievement of the year winner. What do you have to say to all those fans that voted for you?
“Brilliant is that, it’s good to win something isn’t it! (Derek Laughs). Normally I’m on the other end of it! To be fair I’m quite opinionated so I’m always getting a bit of stick on social media but I just laugh it off! I love fan pages like yours but try to not get too involved with it because you get some fans that take things too far. I can give and take a bit of banter but you get a lot of key board Warriors and I don’t have time for that.”
We know you are very passionate about the club and have pushed really hard for success but what’s inspired you to take on this historical club?
“Well… I’ve always been around here. I was born in Salford but spent all my life in Leigh. Really all there is here is the rugby club. I went to St Gabriels school and the only sport they would really teach there was rugby league. The PE teacher was a Saints fan; he used to draw a red V on me all the time! (Derek laughs) I loved playing the sport but when I played in France my feet went the other way and that was the last time I played at age 16 but I always had a passion for league. In 1999 I opened a business and I thought to myself what would attract customers to my shop? So I decided to sponsor the sleeve on the Centurions top and it just grew from there. The club got in a bit of trouble and I got involved, but back then I didn’t have the kind of money I have now and it was too much of a big task for me and also there were 10 people trying to fund the club between us and things just got even more difficult. So I got out and concentrated on my business but I promised I would come back when the time was right and now I’m here…”
Derek, if you don’t mind us saying we believe a lot of fans have the wrong opinion of you. You seem to be constantly labelled as the next Marwan Koukash. What do you have to say to all those fans that have doubted you and the club?
“I wouldn’t mind been Marwan Koukash’s bank balance because I can guess he’s earning a few quid more then me! (Derek Laughing) No seriously I really do like Marwan but we are two different people. Marwan is very stubborn, he’s very passionate and he’s gone out there to do the job. I think the difference between us two is that I have the knowledge of rugby league because I have always been involved in it and watched it and Marwan has more knowledge on horse racing. But fair play to him, he’s built up a lot at Salford. I think what the problem is, a lot of fans don’t really know me but deep down I’m really caring, I give a lot to local charities and have helped a lot of people but you never see that side of me because I keep it out of the media, I don’t do it for attention, I do it because I care. I’m perceived as being rough around the edges but I’m very soft on the inside. Anybody who works with me knows I’m firm and fair. I run the club like a family and everybody is equal, I don’t see anybody above anybody and I especially don’t put myself above anybody. We work well together and I think that is the element of our success.”
Do you have any more signings to announce?
“We are not ready to announce any players just yet however We have agreements in place with two players (all Super League players currently) we are still in the market, it’s no secret we went for Adam Walker but we missed out to Saints. That’s the type of spot we are looking for in the middle but we will be patient. We have enough players at the minute so will just see what comes up.”
We believe next year Leigh are very capable of having a successful season based on the experienced players you have purchased, however we know just buying players doesn’t always do the job, so…. do you have any plans to help the team bond together?
“Immediately just by the additional coaching staff and backroom staff we are feeling very confident, we have a new video analyst from Huddersfield and he is very experienced and we have purchased cameras and drones so everything is filmed how these guys perform. We have also took on Steve Maiden, another past player and he comes into the group as a player welfare officer to make sure the boys are happy and make sure everything is taken care of off the field. We also have a guy who I can’t quite announce yet because we are waiting on a visa approval, he is a strength and conditioning guru who is currently involved in the NRL,he will help us step our game up to that next level. You are right, players don’t just win games, it’s what you do with those players, and based on last season we know we have a squad that can compete with the likes of Hull KR,Salford and Huddersfield. We didn’t quite get it right against Leeds but it something we can work up to.”
“As this is the Rugby League Fan Club we have some questions from our fans if you could kindly answer them.”
What are your thoughts on the new Super League Sponsor Bet Fred? Does it give clubs the freedom to work alongside local Bet Fred stores for promotions and competitions etc?
“Personally I don’t like gambling and we have declined a sponsorship offer in the past but at the same time I’m a realist. I’ve seen people get involved with that and personally I just don’t like it. I’m sure Bet Fred have gamble awareness schemes in place and they are also a market leader so as long as people gamble responsibly it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Do I think it’s right for rugby league? Personally I think this is a family sport but if they have done a better deal then previous sponsors I can’t see why it should be a problem and we would fulfil any obligation with the sponsor.”
Who would you like Leigh to play in the Magic Weekend and what stadium would you prefer?
“Good question! I would like to play Salford in Newcastle, ideally the middle game on the Saturday and then we can have a bit of a breather and take the lads out for a couple of ales and sit back watch the rugby on the Sunday before we return to business.”
Are we likely to use the new Marquee rule and sign a big name this year?
“No the reason being is, number 1 it counts as £250,000 on the cap anyway, so you’re spending above £250,000 unless it’s a home grown player and plus we won’t have any player on £250,000 at this club. No disrespect but I can’t understand how anybody could spend the full value of 250K just on one player! We are struggling to do it with the number of six figure players I think you need to be successful in the Super League.”
What is your realistic expectation next year? Please don’t say top 4 because that is unrealistic ?
“Like I said earlier we would be very happy making the Super 8s, trust me I would be a happy chappy but you can’t say top 4 is unrealistic. Anything can happen and it could still be a possibility,our goal is to go out and win every game and anything else is a bonus.”
You have the two of the best amateur Rugby League Clubs on your door step. Leigh Miners and Leigh East, will you be producing a youth development programme within the club to filter the lads through to an academy and under 21s?
“100 percent this is the direction the club is heading but it isn’t going to happen over night, in fact it probably won’t happen next year. Right now we just want to get settled in to the Super League and concentrate on this at a later date.”
Can we have a big push to fill the first game in the stadium like when we played Bradford two years ago? Entertainment and advertising to get the lads fired up?
“Yep we sure will be doing that, we found out how successful the Batley game was when we removed the financial barrier after we were promoted and it showed there was a huge appetite for the game. We have already booked an opera singer for the first game and we will have things outside for the kids and we will make sure the game will build up nicely! We can’t give free tickets away because obviously we need to make the business work but it will promoted well and I expect a big crowd.”
After winning the league year after year and never hardly losing a game, how do you think the fans will react to not winning as many and possibly having a more difficult season transitioning into a whole new level of rugby league?
“I would urge the fans to be patient and not expect to win every game, as long as we are competing that is the main thing. We are going to lose some games but we won’t like losing and we will dig in and fight and try to keep a winning mentality.”
When do we get to see the new 2017 kits?
“We have narrowed it down and have some samples to see and we will decide whether we will give the fans a choice to pick from three kits. If that’s the case you should see those in the next few weeks. I think we will definitely let the fans choose at least one kit.”
“A bit of a funny question from one of your fans Derek.”
(BLUE STEVEN RICHARDSON)
Can you charter a fans plane for Catalans! Preferably the A380 double decker? 😂
Derek chuckled and said “I think it would be more like an Easy Jet plane.” 😂
Who do you see as the biggest rival in the Super League?
“Wigan are definitely our ultimate rivals, I think they just can’t accept that we are the original Cherry and Whites and they just can’t get over that. We have a lot of harmless banter between Wigan and Leigh, something which the fans love. But next year our realistic rivals are Widnes,Salford,Wakefield as these are the must win games to survive the Super League, although I think Cas may push top 4 next year.”
Do you believe the salary cap should be scrapped and allow teams to spend what they want providing they can afford it?
“I don’t think the salary cap should be scrapped but it should definitely be increased as it’s too restrictive! I know the RFL are reviewing it but it definitely can’t be scrapped because the sport would be in danger of the richest man wins. I would like to see more money going to the Championship and a straight 2 up 2 down league system.”
“Again Derek we are very grateful for your time and we would like to leave you with one question each?”
What is your favourite stadium for atmosphere and singing. You can’t pick your own club?
“It’s got to be Headingley, the atmosphere there is another world! When we played them in the last game it was was quite daunting, it’s almost like a fortress! When you here the crowd roar you can feel the stand shake beneath your feet it’s like a set of bombs going off in a row! I kind of just want to go to one of the games and stick a Leeds shirt on and a flat cap and experience it for myself and hope nobody noticed me”!
Gav said “I will have to take you up on that offer”
(DAVE MUSGRAVE) If you could sign any player in the world past and present who would you pick and why?
“There is so many players to choose from I loved Lesley Vainikolo for Bradford on the wing and also love Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston but if I have to pick one right now i would choose… Thurston!”
Thanks to the RLFC for letting us publish this interview…