TODAY we launch our bid to save Leigh Centurions.
We are calling on everyone in the town to join together to help keep the crisis-hit club from closure.
Officials at the club are working to ensure there is a semi-professional team in the town for 2012 but they have some major challenges ahead.
In the short-term, Centurions need to find money to pay the players who are still awaiting match payments for games in September.
But in the long-term, the club needs to take a chunk out of its debts which currently top £114,000.
Supporters are already rallying round the Centurions in their hour of need, with more than 300 people attending a fans forum last week.
And the club’s chief executive, Trevor Barton, believes there could be some light at the end of the tunnel.
The Centurions are awaiting a decision from the Rugby Football League about their future after urgent talks and Mr Barton said he was confident the club’s future will be a positive one.
He said discussions with local authorities and the sport’s governing body had gone well.
Leigh MP Andy Burnham has also added his support to the campaign to save the club, saying it was unthinkable that the Centurions would not get through their present difficulties.
Mr Barton said: “I’m quite confident about the outcome of our talks. The RFL have been excellent and we have had, as we have from everybody else, terrific support.
“I don’t think there will be any problems but you’re never certain in life until you get the final signed document in your hands.
“If we get the appropriate support and the right outcome for us we have a plan and we are ready to swing into action, and we will start putting in place the arrangement to take us forward into next season and beyond.”
Mr Barton reserved special praise for the way the club’s fans have supported their team in some of its darkest hours.
He said: “They have been absolutely wonderful. Only this morning I got a letter from a lady in Warwick who’s a die-hard Centurions supporter making a donation. She can’t get to the games these days but still supports the club through LISA (Leigh Independent Supporters Association) and the Super Leigh lottery.
“The amount of support we’ve had from our people has been brilliant, and has made me proud to be involved in rugby league.”
The Centurions’ financial difficulties came to a head after a shock loss at home to the Sheffield Eagles in the Grand Final Eliminator match.
A statement from acting chairman Keith Freer said the club faced “a serious cash flow issue” and was in danger of going into liquidation.
Talks were held all last week to ensure the club was able to pay the players for last season and attract new investors to the club.
Mr Burnham said it was crucial for the town that its highest-profile sports club was able to firstly survive and then thrive going forward.
He said: “The meeting was very good last week.
“A lot of frank concerns were aired but by the end the atmosphere was very positive.”
See the Leigh Reporter for full details ...