In aiming to create and share a vision for Salford Red Devils as we progress through this new era of shared ownership, it’s important we think about the Club not as a sole entity, but as a part of the local and wider community as a whole.
With this in mind, the vision I am keen to put forward in my role as Chair of the Club, along with our Board of Directors, is one of operational development. This is rare on the part of a Board of Directors, as they traditionally have no ‘every day’ say in the things that go on within the running of an organisation. When putting together a vision, mission statement or ethos, however, I think it’s vitally important that the strategy affects the every day.
My own personal role within the Club is to promote public relations and to improve communications, and for this to happen more effectively, I want to set a pathway. That pathway starts with the youngest members of our community. In starting with that demographic, we want to create, develop and promote a clear pathway ‘From First Kick to First Team’, whereby the Club and its partners will provide opportunities for local boys and girls to progress both on and off the pitch with the support of Salford Red Devils.
It is not lost on us that not every young person is going to ‘make it’ at elite or professional level at our (or indeed any) professional sporting club, but what we can certainly do is play a part in ensuring that opportunities, support and resource are provided for young people so that everyone can play sport at the highest level possible for their age and ability.
What our vision also wants to promote is the fact that there are opportunities for those who play at the highest levels within our Club to gain a package of support should their journey in professional sport come to an end for any reason. This is a problem that is highly prevalent given the statistics of progression in elite sport, and one that causes issues for the young people in question who feel that they have nothing else ‘going’ for them in terms of a life outside of professional sport should they be released from their contracts.
Our aim as a professional Rugby League club is to work with local education providers, councils and local businesses to provide a style of apprenticeship pathway, whereby young people can be engaged in work programmes, vocational education and mentoring in order to develop a solid base of skills and experiences that will improve their future opportunities as they enter adulthood – either whilst still within or having come away from sport.
In bidding for the Women’s World Cup Final in 2021, we want and need to reiterate that this vision is on offer for both boys and girls, young men and young women; and such opportunity for girls and women is one that is an obligation we take seriously here in our position as a Super League Club.
As a club, Salford Red Devils currently have no Salford born players on our books, and whilst this is disappointing out on the pitch, it’s equally disappointing up in the stands. This is because local players will attract their families, their friends and local people who are all keen – and even delighted – to get behind to the ‘local lad’ they’ve seen grow up in their lives and communities. Our vision looks at players of the future, but we also need to appreciate the effect this will have on fans of the future as well. Via the First Kick to First Team vision, we will have the largest scope possible to find, nurture and develop homegrown players that our community – as well as our Club – can be rightfully proud of.