In the wake of criticism over the lack of communication and transparency from the club, Widnes have announced a Members Monday will be held on October 30.
Members Monday as a concept was coined following the period of administration, where the new board promised greater insight in to how the club was being run, as a way of gaining fans’ trust following the previous ownership.
However, that has dwindled over the past 18 months, until now.
Here are some of the key questions we would like to see answered:
Is the squad budget for 2024 less than it was for 2023?
There are numerous moving factors that will undoubtedly have an impact on the Widnes squad budget for 2024. The collapse of VIQI will have left a hole, but also the uncertainty over central funding and the unknown of the new IMG era.
But Chris Hamilton made a point of stating live on TV during the home game against Bradford that reports that the budget was being cut for 2024 were untrue. He said: “The playing budget is not being cut for next year which some reports are mistakenly saying.”
"It is ridiculous. There are no budget cuts, there are no financial problems." 🗣️ @RossFiddes speaks with Widnes Vikings' Head of Operations Chris Hamilton about current problems at the club pic.twitter.com/jMjbahm6YN
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) July 10, 2023
Even the most ardent Widnes fan would understand if the budget was being cut. The departures of the likes of Danny Craven and Kyle Amor will likely have freed up significant budget, yet there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of noise just yet about replacements.
This often leads to unfounded speculation that the club has financial worries looming, which I understand is far from the case.
Why have so many staff departed in 2023?
Since the arrival of Hamilton back in April, virtually every off-field member of staff has left the club.
Respected General Manager Steve Roberts and club photographer Ste Jones who had taken on the role as media manager and had done a fine job with the club’s branding for 2023 have recently been joined out of the exit door by Cheryl from the community team and Sarah the head of commercial.
Jack Owens and Danny Craven had previously been working in the club office until the middle of the year.
Head of strength and conditioning Bob Beswick has departed, as has club physio Lyndsey Hatton since the end of the season.
There were of course big headlines over the departure of head coach John Kear mid-season, as well as his assistant Mike Grady.
The club has recently advertised for the two fitness roles, and recently appointed a new head of media.
How many new signings have agreed terms for 2024?
Widnes announced 10 departures, including Amor who had retired mid-season, yet so far have only announced two new recruits (Liam Kirk and Sam Brooks).
Signings are understandably teased out during the off-season to keep up interest and drive season ticket sales – but just how many have already signed on the dotted line, or are deals still being done?
How big of a shortfall has been left by VIQI and what is happening with the ‘fans’ seat on the board?
The demise of VIQI, whoever is to blame, leaves a funding hole in the club. WidnesVIPS has been set up in its place, though will understandably be well below the contributions of VIQI as it doesn’t have a 20+ year history behind it.
In saving the club from administration, the fans’ money went into the club via VIQI and as a result, there was a VIQI seat on the board occupied by Jason Shaw. It has been stated that the VIQI seat will now transfer to WidnesVIPS, though there have been concerns raised by some members over the constitution and the terms of that seat on the board.
And the big one – just what are the current aims and goals of the club?
Is it to get back to Super League? Is it to continue to exist as a sustainable part-time rugby league club?
It would be interesting to know whether the club’s board sees the failure to reach the Championship play-offs in each of the past four seasons since relegation as a failure, or whether reaching the play-offs (and potential promotion) is a headache they would rather not have.
For details on the Widnes Vikings Members’ Monday, click here