Swinton Lions RLFC has received a life-saving loan of 'up to' £60,000 from Salford City Council which should help secure the struggling club's future.
The loan was agreed behind closed doors by Deputy Mayor, John Merry, in a non-executive meeting where no other councillors were present. It is to be guaranteed by Lions' directors and repaid over three years with interest.
The decision notice states that the loan will "assist in meeting the short term challenges – providing a stable base from which the club should become more sustainable". It adds that "other options have been explored with the club, however, the chosen option will provide more certainty and stability."
While the secretive nature of the loan can be slated, it is literally in a different league from the dodgy deals that handed millions of pounds and the AJ Bell Stadium to Salford Reds. Indeed, it can be argued that it is about time the Council helped the Lions, having bent over backwards for John Wilkinson, Marwan Koukash and co.
Swinton Lions, arguably with more history than Salford Red Devils, have suffered on and off the field this season. On the field, the club is currently battling to stay in the league, engaged in the Championship Shield 8s with a 'home' match against Sheffield Eagles at Heywood Road, Sale, this Sunday (13th August) to try and secure survival.
Off the pitch, the Lions faced an HMRC winding up petition at the end of July, which was settled to ensure the club's short term future, while players' wages were paid and creditors given assurances... "leaving them high and dry by going into Administration was simply not an option" stated the club.
Funding was raised, the club added, via the sale of player Chris Atkin to Hull KR, 'budget improvements through natural wastage', 'third party input' and 'some fantastic fund-raising by the Swinton supporters (who have so far raised an amazing £30,000)'.
The Swinton Lions Supporters Trust - which gives 'supporters a direct say in the policy making mechanism at the club, by offering financial and practical support in exchange for a shareholding and seats on the board'- has ongoing fundraising, with a current JustGiving collection aimed at raising a further £10,000 to help secure its future (see here for details).
The Trust also has a stall at tomorrow's Garden In The Square event at Swinton Precinct (11am-4pm)... "possibly a few players will be there to spread the word that we are still here" a member states.
A few years ago, the club had huge hopes of moving its home back into the area after years of nomadic existence since the Station Road ground was pulled down for housing.
There were plans for the Lions to build a new stadium at Agecroft, and the controversial former Salford Council and Salford Red Devils figure, Martin Vickers, was brought on board to spearhead change. Now, with Vickers at Toronto Wolfpack, and a new stadium looking a pipedream, the very existence of the club is in the balance.
"The loan was necessary to prevent them from being expelled from rugby league and is guaranteed", Deputy Mayor, John Merry, told the Salford Star.
Meanwhile, the last official statement from the Swinton Lions, on July 31st, remained cautiously optimistic...
"The last few weeks have been incredibly tough and stressful for all concerned, but hopefully we are now beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The input of Swinton supporters over the past few weeks has been extraordinary, and underlines the passion which exists for our wonderful and historic club. If you have been involved in fundraising at any level then thank you, but please don't take your foot off the pedal..."