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‘Rugby league needs to grow’: Matt Ellis

26 Jan 24, 8:21AM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by PA Images

New Wakefield Trinity owner Matt Ellis says rugby league in the UK needs to grow and must ramp up its marketing and profile to attract new supporters.

Ellis has taken over at relegated Wakefield and is out to breathe new life into the club as it enters the Championship and charts a path back to Super League.

The Barnsley businessman has backed IMG’s involvement in trying to reimagine rugby league, and he believes change must come to boost its appeal and status.

“It needs to grow,” he told Everything About Rugby League.

“The TV deal going down each year and rugby league is in a bit of a tough spot with that aren’t they, so we need to turn it around.

“We’ve got a great game, we need to just push that a little bit more.

“Football is not as tough a game, it’s a softer game. I support Barnsley FC but this game is more in keeping with the Yorkshire spirit.

“I don’t understand why football is the number one game.

“I don’t want to sound anti-football, but for it to have so much money and rugby league to have so little funding when our game is more physical, quicker, I’m a bit confused about that.

“It is what it is. It’s the Sky TV money and how they distribute it.”

Wakefield dropped out of Super League at the end of 2023 after winning just four of 27 games.

Ellis has brought in Daryl Powell as head coach at Trinity and the club has made a raft of new player signings, including Jermaine McGillvary from Huddersfield.

Powell’s backroom staff has been boosted and the new Neil Fox stand has now opened. There has also been a host of marketing and fan engagement initiatives rolled out to create stronger connections with supporters.

The chairman has further plans to revamp the rest of 129-year-old Belle Vue over the next few years, as well as to create a consolidated training base for all of Wakefield’s teams to use.

“My aim on the commercial side is to put money in but I am looking to build a business that is self-sufficient as well,” Ellis said.

“So the good thing is I’ve got the money to put the ambition in, but obviously my business brain thinks let’s try and make it self-sufficient.

“I won’t ever turn a profit because I’ll just keep pumping it into the playing squad or the club.

“I won’t ever take a penny out of the club.

“But I’m already thinking the north terrace needs extending, we sold out the northern terrace.

“It’s a really popular area of the ground. We want to do something on the west terrace, whether it’s trying to make it more home-supporter-friendly or more weather-friendly.

“For 2024 we’re focused on the north terrace, for 2025 we’ll look at the west terrace.”

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