Leigh Centurions chief claims club is harshly treated

Derek Beaumont
Derek Beaumont
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The outspoken chairman of Leigh Centurions has entered into a war of words with Wigan Council and the club’s landlords amid continuing uncertainty over the outfit’s future.

Centurions boss Derek Beaumont has blasted management at the local authority owned Leigh Sports Village (LSV), claiming his side has been charged more per game in the Championship this season than they were during their Super League campaign.

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And Beaumont, who has already announced his plans to step away from the Leigh club, is fuming that new LSV arrivals, Manchester United Women, already have two fixtures pencilled in for Sundays in February and March next year, without the Centurions being consulted.

Town hall chiefs have so far refused to respond to charges that the council’s support has waned since Leigh were relegated from the top flight last season.

But Beaumont insists “it’s no good living in a house in which you can’t afford to pay the bills”.

The chairman and LSV chief executive Simon Toon have also clashed over an allegation that the team was not permitted to complete their traditional "captain’s run" before the 68-6 victory over Sheffield Eagles on Sunday because of a Manchester United Under 23s fixture the previous day.

In a lengthy statement posted on the club’s website, Beaumont insisted he had invested a “seven-figure sum” in the Centurions during his tenure.

He has called for some of the club’s remaining high earners to tear up their contracts, with the prospect of converting to a part-time venture looming.

Last week Beaumont confirmed his desire to walk away from the club after five years and in his latest statement he has sparked controversy by expressing “disappointment” that more senior players have not moved on and lowered Leigh’s wage bill.

He says it was only by writing a series of “personal cheques” to cover costs earlier in the season that the club was able to dodge a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs.

His stance prompted a joint statement by former and current Leigh MPs, Andy Burnham and Jo Platt, and ex-council leader Lord Peter Smith, which paid tribute to the “energy and investment” made by Beaumont and called for investors to consider coming forward and preserving the club’s proud history.

Beaumont is upset that this support, with the exception of a pledge to discuss the matter from Mr Burnham’s office, has not been followed up on this week.

He added: “The harsh reality that I won’t go into full detail yet is that the council and LSV have been anything but supportive and we have been at loggerheads with them all year with them declining my many requests for assistance since being relegated.

“In actual fact we are being charged more in the Championship this year than we were in Super League last year.

“The council and LSV were happy to reap the rewards of my investment and the success it brought the club and the town.

“Higher attendances and secondary spend increased their income dramatically, whilst the social and economical benefits it brought to the local community and businesses was undoubtedly significant.

“It’s disappointing that when the tide turned, they weren’t prepared to assist us.”

He has also described a decision to allow Manchester United Women to take two Sundays in February and March next season, as “appalling”.

Paul McKevitt, deputy chief executive at Wigan Council, and also speaking on behalf of LSV, said: “We are currently involved in discussions with the club and are not in a position to comment fully at present.”

Beaumont has promised to continue to support the Centurions until the end of the season – and provide seed funding to create a new community club if the liquidators were ever called in.