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Mark Darbon: A Letter from the Chief Executive

I hope this letter finds you well, and that you have all now recovered from last weekend’s raucous celebrations down at Twickenham and then back here in Northampton. Now the dust has settled, I wanted to write to our supporters following the conclusion of a historic season which will live long in the memory.

I’ve hardly stopped smiling since last Saturday, but it’s been an emotional week following our success in the Gallagher Premiership Final as we lifted the league trophy for the first time in a decade. We’re over the moon to be able to call ourselves ‘Champions of England’ again, and I am so happy for the playing squad, for the coaching team, all our Club staff and of course our supporters that we were able to experience and celebrate that moment together.

Equally, I sense that the elation was mixed with relief for many, and come the final whistle it was certainly the latter feeling that washed over me. It was a stressful game, possibly the least-enjoyable 80 minutes of rugby that I can ever remember watching, given the jeopardy involved in the final result! So much hard work and effort has gone into achieving success on the pitch over the last few years, and I am sure all of you were also feeling the pressure in those closing moments of the match. So, to hear the final whistle and see the celebrations at the end of the game was incredibly special for everyone involved with the Club.

Last Sunday’s parade was also a sensational occasion. We feel blessed to have the supporter-base that we do, but to see thousands of people lining the streets of Northampton and congregating in front of the Guildhall really helped the magnitude of what we’ve accomplished sink in, and illustrated the importance of our community to the Club, and vice versa. I want to thank everyone who came to celebrate with the team for making that day so special, and to congratulate our staff, and our colleagues over at West Northants Council, who pulled off the event less than 24 hours after the final whistle sounded at Twickenham. The backing of our supporters has made a massive difference throughout this season, so what a way it was to draw that remarkable weekend to a close.

Now we enter the summer months, cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens naturally becomes a lot quieter for a while as our playing squad and coaching team enjoy a well-earned break – or, in the case of 11 players, embark on international summer tours with England, Scotland or Fiji. But, as always, we continue to look forward with optimism and planning has already begun to make 2024/25 every bit as successful as the season just gone.

The very best teams build on success and back up their results year after year, and we need to put ourselves in the best position to do just that. It was well documented that following our Premiership success in 2014, the Club did not kick on as we would have hoped, and we’re desperate to get it right this time around to ensure we are not waiting another decade to lift the trophy again.

A number of influential, experienced players have now departed the Club, but we have re-signed 20 players over the course of the last season, and have also brought in the likes of Josh Kemeny, Tom West, George Makepeace-Cubitt, Luke Green, Archie Benson and Fyn Brown – with a couple more new signings still to be announced in due course. Not only that, but our coaching team remains unchanged for next season as well with Phil Dowson and Sam Vesty signing new long-term contracts in recent months. We have also taken the opportunity to extend Lee Radford’s contract recently after the extremely positive impact he had in his first season.

The age profile of our squad is really attractive, and should stand us in great stead to build on this season’s success over the years to come. We are very blessed with the brilliant Academy pipeline which Mark Hopley and his team continue to build, and our recruitment over the last couple of seasons, adding externally when we've needed to that Academy group, has been really strong.

Off the pitch, whilst it is undeniable that our sport continues to face some significant financial challenges, we have strengthened our position this year. We always talk about a virtuous circle between the commercial arm of the Club and the performance department – and we have certainly seen that this year. Reaching the latter stages of the Investec Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership, and hosting a number of knock-out matches at cinch Stadium, has generated vital additional revenue for Northampton Saints over the last few months. Whether we ended up winning the league or not, we played fantastic rugby all the way through the season, which people want to come and watch, and our matchday experience feedback scores continue to rise – meaning we are sending visitors home with smiles on their faces. We consistently sold out our home matches in 2024, which created a brilliant performance impact for the team, as acknowledged so frequently in recent weeks by our players and coaches. And while we expect that we will now see a further halo effect from being crowned Premiership Champions, our Season Ticket sales are already stronger than at any point in the last seven seasons, and we have also seen record revenues in our retail operation as well. To those who have already signed on for a Season Ticket for 2024/25, or have committed to a box or a seasonal hospitality package, thank you for your ongoing support. The easiest and cheapest way to guarantee your place at every Saints match next term remains via a Season Ticket, so if you are yet to secure your seat, you can do so by CLICKING HERE. Please do so to avoid missing out next term.

Meanwhile, our strong commercial year has also been underpinned by the ongoing support of our stable of brilliant partners – who all continue to believe in our vision for Northampton Saints, support us along our journey, and contribute to our achievements. These partnerships are so important for us, so to our wonderful principal partner, cinch, to our elite partners, Carlsberg Marston’s, Travis Perkins, Church’s, GRS, Macron and to all our other Club Partners, thank you once again for your vital role in our success. We would not be where we are without you.

Finally, I must mention our superb staff at Saints. I feel very fortunate to work with such talented and committed group of players, performance staff and commercial colleagues. We will always push ourselves to get better at what we do, but as I write this letter I am incredibly proud of everyone associated with the organisation. I know that I speak for the Barwell family, our other shareholders, and the Board, when I thank everyone again for their efforts.

For now, I hope you all enjoy the summer months and a short break from Club rugby. We will watch our England, Scotland and Fiji players on the international stage with enthusiasm in the weeks ahead, and plan to announce this year’s preseason games shortly too, with the Gallagher Premiership due to get underway on the weekend of 20/21/22 September 2024. Our players will return to begin preseason training in the first half of July, meanwhile preparations are already underway ahead of the autumn when we will welcome you all back through our gates again. Rest assured, we will leave no stone unturned off the pitch to ensure the Club is in the best possible position to make another step forward again over the 2024/25 season.

Mark Darbon

Mark Darbon
Chief Executive

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