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Mark Darbon: Read the Chief Executive's programme notes

Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon reflects on what has been a turbulent year at Franklin's Gardens, as the men in Black, Green and Gold take on Worcester Warriors in their final fixture of 2020.

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

Good afternoon and welcome back to Franklin’s Gardens for this afternoon’s return to Gallagher Premiership rugby action, as we take on Worcester Warriors. I hope that whether you spent the holidays together or apart, you and your families enjoyed a very merry Christmas, and that Saints can round off Boxing Day with what will be a welcome victory.

I must admit it was an emotional moment for me when ‘Oh When The Saints’ rang around the Gardens for the first time.

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

At the time of writing, Northampton remains under Tier Two restrictions and we are eagerly anticipating welcoming up to 2,000 supporters from Tier One and Tier Two areas back into the ground today. I was amazed at just how much noise the limited number of people in attendance were able to make against Bordeaux, and I know it gave Chris Boyd and the entire playing squad a huge lift to hear you getting behind the team in person. I must admit it was an emotional moment for me when ‘Oh When The Saints’ rang around the Gardens for the first time, and it makes us all the more excited for the day to arrive when we can safely allow even more supporters through our doors.

While we haven’t been faring as well as we’d like on the pitch of late, off the pitch the Club’s commercial team continue to flourish and I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate them on a huge coup this week. On Monday we announced that cinch, one of the UK’s fastest-growing online car-selling platforms, have become an Elite Partner at Franklin’s Gardens.

Like Saints, cinch is a business focused on innovation and growth, and we are very proud to welcome them to the Club in such an exciting capacity. You will notice their name across the back of our playing shirts and shorts from this weekend onwards, and the newly-named ‘cinch Stand’ (formerly the South Stand) will ensure that cinch enjoys a significant matchday presence at Franklin’s Gardens. This is the third new commercial partnership we have been able to announce in recent weeks, following those of Warner’s Distillery and Barclaycard. It’s fantastic to see three locally run and completely diverse businesses backing the Club, and their support is vital to Northampton Saints in the challenging financial climate we currently find ourselves in.

Moreover, I want to congratulate one of our other key partners, Travis Perkins, on another successful year of their Toy Donation scheme. While they were not able to collect their usual array of toys at Franklin’s Gardens due to current restrictions, TP (alongside Saints supporters) managed to raise over £4,000 to purchase toys and gifts for Northamptonshire Children’s Trust, Northamptonshire Health Charity and Macmillan Cancer Support. An incredible effort!

At league level, we have also seen important developments this week with Premiership Rugby renewing their longstanding broadcast partnership, which sees BT Sport remain the home of Gallagher Premiership Rugby in the UK for a further three years. The announcement that 80 matches a season will continue to be shown by BT Sport is fantastic news for rugby fans across the country, as well as all 13 partner clubs for whom this agreement is vital. I was also very pleased to see Nigel Melville appointed Chairman of the Premiership Rugby Investor Board on Monday. Nigel brings 25 years’ experience of professional rugby, and will have a crucial role in working alongside PRL to help grow the league and deliver the objectives of its clubs. We still firmly believe the Premiership has enormous growth potential, and Nigel’s acute understanding of the issues facing the modern game will stand us in good stead for the future.

While our season has not got off to the start we expected, I know Chris Boyd and his squad continue to work hard and make progress.

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

Back to the rugby and with our European sojourn behind us, we face a key block of matches in the Premiership. While our season has not got off to the start we expected, I know Chris Boyd and his squad continue to work hard and make progress, which is showing on the field in spite of recent results. Worcester will prove a tough test and will scrap for everything, as they showed in our preseason match only a few weeks ago, but with several key names back in the side I am confident we can deliver a performance to remember today.

Wherever you are supporting Saints this afternoon – whether it is from the stands at the Gardens or in front of your television with your Christmas leftovers – please get behind our boys who really are giving everything they’ve got to the cause at the moment. This is our final match of what has been an unbelievable year for everyone, but in spite of all the challenges we have faced together in 2020, your incredible support has not wavered and still means the world to everyone at the Club.

COME ON YOU SAINTS.

Mark Darbon
Chief Executive

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