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Mark Darbon: Read the Chief Executive’s programme notes

Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon reflects on a busy week at Franklin’s Gardens, which has seen ticket ballots launched for the return of supporters to the stadium, and history made as two of the Club’s most influential players became two-time British & Irish Lions.

Read Mark's welcome and more in today’s official matchday programme, on sale HERE for £3.50...

Good afternoon and – for, hopefully, the final time – a socially-distanced ‘hello’ from Franklin’s Gardens for this afternoon’s Gallagher Premiership match against Gloucester Rugby.

It’s looking increasingly likely that today’s game will be the last played behind closed doors before we are able to welcome up to 4,000 of our supporters back through our gates again for our two remaining home matches of the season. You may well have seen that earlier this week, the Club launched a ticket ballot process for these matches (against Wasps and Exeter Chiefs) which is available to enter now for eligible Season Ticket Holders.

We have implemented what we believe is a fair ballot process for our supporters to secure their tickets. In line with pledges we have made throughout the pandemic, there will be two priority access windows – firstly for those who renewed their Season Tickets before the Club initially took them off sale in October, and then for those who renewed their memberships between the announcement of November’s Rollover plan and the end of January. Should any tickets remain following these two ballot windows, a general sale period will begin on Wednesday 19 May. For full information and FAQs regarding the ticket ballot – including detailed information on deadlines and a step-by-step guide to the application process – please visit the Club website or contact the Ticket Office.

“We cannot wait to see a flood of Black, Green and Gold back in the stands again for the first time this year.”

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

We cannot wait to see a flood of Black, Green and Gold back in the stands again for the first time, as we look to scale back up towards unrestricted crowds for the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign. Thousands and thousands of you have already renewed your Season Tickets for next season, and while the Early Bird pricing window ended yesterday, we still have seats on hold until Sunday 6 June for those supporters who have not yet renewed with us. The safe and emotional return of supporters to Franklin’s Gardens is set to be one of the greatest events in the Club’s history, so don’t delay and secure your spot for what we hope will be another special season.

Thursday was an incredibly proud day for everyone at Northampton Saints as we saw two of our most influential players, Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes, selected for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer. Touring with the Lions is said to be the pinnacle of any rugby player’s career, so to have two of our squad selected by Warren Gatland is a fantastic accolade for the Club. Dan and Courtney thoroughly deserve their call-ups based on the quality of their performances for Club and country in recent times, and we wish them the very best ahead of what is sure to be a daunting challenge against the World Cup-winning Springboks. Dan becomes Saints’ 26th Lion in total (having not yet joined Northampton when he previously toured in 2017), while Courtney is only the fifth Saint in history to have been selected for multiple tours by the Lions – huge congratulations to both of them.

“We wish Dan and Courtney the very best ahead of what is sure to be a daunting challenge against the World Cup-winning Springboks.”

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

Our Academy also celebrated a milestone last weekend as they marked their first Under-18 match in over 13 months, narrowly losing out 34-31 to Saracens. Despite the result, it was an excellent first performance of the season by a very young side – with 24 under-17 players making their debuts at this level for the Club – while it was also great to see two newly-contracted Senior Academy players in Jake Garside and Geordie Irvine turn out in Black, Green and Gold. The Under-18s face Harlequins on Sunday before matches against London Irish and Yorkshire later this month, and I look forward to seeing the side progress under the guidance of Academy staff.

Back to today’s game though, and it seems clear that Gloucester’s league position belies the quality they have within their squad. This season has been one of transition for them under a new head coach in George Skivington – but with two Lions of their own in Louis Rees-Zammit and Chris Harris, as well as the likes of Jonny May, Lewis Ludlow and Ruan Ackermann in their ranks, they have the ability to cause any team trouble all over the park. 

As Chris Boyd has noted in recent weeks, given the quality of the sides around us in the race for the semi-finals, every match is like a knockout game for Saints at the moment – but while we’ll have to be at our very best today to come out on top, I know the entire squad and performance staff are fighting tooth and nail to secure our spot in the Premiership’s top four.

Enjoy the game…and COME ON YOU SAINTS!

Mark Darbon
Chief Executive

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