Kris Radlinski Q&A pt.2: Pay-cuts, cash-flow... and hopes for the future
In the second-part of our interview with Wigan's executive director Kris Radlinski, he discusses pay-cuts, the £16m loan - and hopes for the future
Are you happy with the government loan? Or would you have wanted more/grant?
Radlinski: It is a tremendous boost for the sport of rugby league in the way the UK Government has come in to help. The department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recognises the role that rugby league plays in its community. Not only do we believe it’s the greatest sport in the world, it is humble and honest enough to give back and connect with people like no other. We should never take this for granted. The human characteristics that rugby league people consistently demonstrate, is one of the sport’s greatest attributes.
Do Wigan plan to apply for money from the £16m government loan?
Radlinski: We are still unsure what this means to each Super League dlub. On Friday morning we were briefed that the help had arrived from the Government and that the money would be managed and audited by the RFL. We don’t know any of the details of the submission to the Government. We have been constantly monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the business and analysing what this means. Our priority has not changed, to ensure the club survives and the jobs of our employees are protected.
Will the pay-cuts run until the end of the season, or may that depend on if you return in front of fans or not?
Radlinski: We have told everybody to expect the cuts to run all the way to November. The only revenue that we have coming in at the moment is the monthly distribution from Super League. That covers around 40 per cent of salaries that we have to pay out. The rest of our income comes from sponsorship, retail, match days, advertising and hospitality. These revenue streams have dried up since there are no games. We have also told people that it could get worse.
When we come out of the other side of this, we expect everybody to cut their cloth appropriately. This may mean a fan who would always come to a game but cant afford to. It may mean a sponsor or somebody who always used to come to a game and have match day hospitality. There will be a period of consolidation and we need to be prepared for that.
What long-term impact do you think this pandemic will have on rugby league?
Radlinski: I think it will be very different to the one we left six weeks ago, but we will still be here and that’s the most important thing. The players will still do things on a field that make us stand and watch in awe and the game will still be as fast and exciting as ever, but the realty is that the Covid-19 pandemic will have a profound effect on all our lives, not just in sport.
Maybe this has shocked players and made them realise just how fragile a career in professional sport is. Maybe it will get them to watch how they spend their money or to plan better for life after sport. I have no doubt that they would have done a great deal of thinking through this period.
Our players have been good. Its not easy telling people you have to take less money but if, anything, sharing with them how the business works can only help their understanding. Every one question that I would expect them to ask, they asked, and I have no problem with that. Administrators will need to review business models to put measures in place to protect against this again. What can we learn from this episode? I have spent many an hour at night sat outside on my decking with a glass of red wine just reflecting. At some point in time we will look back on 2020 and remember how hard it was. We will talk about it with our kids. ‘Dad, do you remember when we were in lockdown and you used to help mum around the house?’
The thing about life is that there are no right answers. We are learning, developing and evolving at all times. That’s what makes it so great. It’s only rubbish if we don’t learn. We are living in a fast, hyper-connected world and rugby league is not exempt from that. Of course we need to make some changes but we cant be frightened for what lies ahead, this should inspire us.
Have you drawn any positives from this, in terms of togetherness, nostalgia, appreciation of what we had?
Radlinski: I have really enjoyed hearing what the rugby league means to the different people. Maybe we have taken that for granted. I remember fans from St Helens and Wigan commenting that something was missing from their lives on Good Friday. Our sport always sticks together in tough times. There is always lots of banter and so there should be but when you consider what the game has had to overcome recently before Covid – Rob Burrow, Mose Masoe and more recently Jordan Cox – we have always got each other’s back, that will never change.
It has allowed me more time to think. Very often you get caught up being busy all the time without taking a step back to look at things more strategically. Like many people, I have been rummaging through my loft. I found some sensational memorabilia up there which I forgot I had.
I have got a pretty fantastic collection of Wigan jerseys from our history which includes around 55 jerseys. My goal is to have the greatest collection of Wigan jerseys than anybody, so it’s a desire of mine to complete the collection. Sometimes I get caught up with doing my job that I actually forget to enjoy it. I love the fact that I get to go into a changing room before a game and see players’ faces as they get ready. The smell of the massage oil, the sense of anticipation, the fear.
I love going in after a game when you see these wounded heroes throwing everything on the line for their team-mates. I get chills thinking about it. I was watching Shawshank Redemption the other day. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) was talking to Ellis Redding (Morgan Freeman) about the first thing they are going to do when they get out of prison and what they missed, like the smell of the ocean. That’s a bit like me waiting for rugby league to return.
What’s been the reaction of fans so far and what’s your message to them?
Radlinski: I am an eternal optimist and I dream that it’s going to be better than ever, but I am realistic to the challenges ahead. Social media has given us a tremendous tool in which we can look back at memories and communicate with each better than ever before.
Over the last six weeks I have watched fans from all kinds of sports select their best ever moment or their greatest team.
It has provided debate and engagement in a positive manner, probably less aggressive than the past when people tended to think they knew it all. People have started to listen and respect other people’s opinions more.
You would have seen some terrific messages from our players of the past.
I just dropped these guys a message and, within an hour or so, I had video messages from people who we all admire and love.
They all speak of fond memories of the club, but the most beautiful thing for me is how they speak about the town of Wigan and its people. I may be biased but I love this town and I love the people of this town.
I hope that anyone who has had a positive impact from rugby league in their lifetime can rediscover their love. To our army of season-ticket holders, we can’t thank you enough for all the support that you continue to show us. We will regather over the coming weeks and then give 2020 our best shot for you guys. Then, 2021 will be the 149th in our history, and we will plan how to make 2022 a huge celebration for the big 150th birthday party.