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Mark Darbon: Update from the Chief Executive

Following the latest statement from Premiership Rugby that our league campaign is set to be postponed beyond the original date of April 20th, I wanted to write to you – our loyal supporters – to provide another update on the current situation at Franklin’s Gardens.

First and foremost, I hope you and your families are all keeping well and staying healthy at home.

I know many of you, especially our Season Ticket Holders, will be eager to know the implications of these latest postponements on your memberships. In this challenging period, we request your continued patience – based on what we know, our postponed matches are still expected to be played at a later date, and we will honour all tickets for the rearranged fixtures. We are in constant contact with Premiership Rugby and are working through a number of scenarios, including playing right through the summer months. Clearly there is still a lot of uncertainty around whether this is feasible, but there remains a clear ambition to facilitate a conclusion to the 2019/20 season.  We will update you directly with the latest information on matches affected by COVID-19 as and when we have it, and will maintain a full summary HERE.

Regrettably, all of the Wanderers’ remaining fixtures this season have now been cancelled, as has the Mobbs’ Own Match against the Army which was due to be held at Franklin’s Gardens. This will come as disappointing news to the many of you who love attending the Wandies matches and the memorial game almost as much as first-team fixtures! I wanted to congratulate our Head of Academy Mark Hopley on an excellent Wanderers campaign – we finished second in the Northern Conference table and it is a great shame we will be unable to press on for silverware in the knock-out stages. As a reminder, information about refunds for the Mobbs match can be found HERE.

The stadium, as you might well expect, is closed and therefore extremely quiet. Everyone at the Club – from the playing squad, support staff and coaching team to the commercial department – has followed the guidance laid out by the government explicitly. Almost everyone is working remotely from home, but still working at full throttle to keep things on track. We have continued to implement a range of cost-saving measures, in addition to the 25 per cent salary reduction we’ve already announced, as we work to ensure the long-term viability of the Club.

The local foxes at least have taken advantage of the peace and quiet inside the ground, and have taken to burying pigeons in the middle of the pitch – much to the exasperation of Andy Miller, our Head Groundsman, who continues to keep a close eye on our wonderful turf.

The squad are locked away but staying as fit as possible in their homes, using equipment they have taken from our gym. I can assure you they are all itching to get back to normal as soon as possible, but are respecting the guidance and staying in close contact via social media and online. Our players have also very kindly offered to check in on some of our elderly supporters via telephone, and have been making calls in recent days.

Our work within the community has not stopped, with the Saints Foundation continuing to deliver their award-winning programmes to vulnerable young people. Meanwhile several of our medical staff have volunteered with the NHS and the Club’s community team have been sharing skills and fitness tips for supporters to try over social media. On that note, we hope you have been enjoying some of the content we have brought you over recent weeks to try and fill the void left by live rugby – including updates from our players at home and streaming ‘Classic Matches’ along with commentaries on our social media channels.

Season Tickets for the 2020/21 season remain on sale and we are very grateful to the thousands of supporters who have already committed so far. However, to make life a little easier in these uncertain times, the Club will shortly be announcing that we will extend the Early Bird price window to July. Please keep your eye on the Club website in the coming days for this announcement.

Our online Saints Store also remains open for business and we still have a fantastic range of training wear in stock – ideal for those who want to support their team while they are forced to lounge indoors for the time being!

It is in times like these when friendships, loyalty and history become even more important currencies. Our Club has been in existence for 130 years, and in that time, has weathered many great storms. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic is unexpected and unprecedented, we intend to emerge from this turbulent time stronger as a result.

Please rest assured that the Club’s staff are already counting down the days until we are able to welcome you back to Franklin’s Gardens to feel the sun on our faces, to hear the thud of Dan Biggar’s boot on ball or the thud of a Courtney Lawes tackle, and to see 15 players in Black, Green and Gold giving their all for Northampton.

We March Together,

Mark Darbon
Chief Executive