Sharks’ CEO, Sid Sutton, has had an eventful first 18 months at the helm. He’s navigated everything from the challenges of the pandemic and playing games behind closed doors, to juggling the reduced salary cap and negotiating the potential purchase of the AJ Bell Stadium.
In the first of Sid’s monthly updates, he gives you, the Sharks Family, an insight into what goes on inside the boardroom, lifts the lid on the ongoing bid to buy the stadium, explains how he has navigated the salary cap restrictions whilst still giving Alex the best squad possible, and talks about why he loves the job despite the odd sleepless night.
“It’s certainly been an eventful 18 months. There’s never a dull day at Sale Sharks but despite the challenges, doing this job is a huge honour.
“One of the biggest challenges this season, and probably the most difficult part of the job, has been juggling the salary cap. We have to do what’s right for the club and its long-term vision and future. We want to develop young, northern talent. This is core to our philosophy and has become even more important given the salary cap reduction in place across the league for next season.
“It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle we’ve had to navigate. Admittedly, it has given me a few sleepless nights but I believe medium to long term it becomes easier for us because we have a very clear focus on the development of the young lads in the academy. We want our young talent to stay at the club.
“As we exit the two year lockdown period, it’s also been evident that some players have been homesick and understandably they’ve missed their families. They want to move back to their roots and that’s had an impact for us in terms of players leaving, but also players like George Ford coming in.
“We have had some difficult moments when we’ve had to release players because we can’t fit them in the cap. These lads are really good people and we’ve had some really tough conversations, but this is a huge, exciting opportunity for us to build a team and club filled with the very best northern talent.
“It’s what we’re all about and it’s the identity that Alex and I both want. We truly want to be the fabric of the north. Naturally, we want to sprinkle some stardust with the very best foreign talent and lads from different parts of the UK but the core of this club has to be the local lads in our academy.
“We’ve invested heavily in the academy this year, both in terms of the staff and players. It’s core to our strategy because we want to widen the net as far as possible to make sure we’re giving young players in the region the best possible opportunity.
“The other huge challenge in the last 12 months has been the future of our stadium. Buying the stadium is still crucial to the future of our club. Both ourselves and Salford City FC have always said that nothing would go ahead until Salford Red Devils had been offered every opportunity to find a new home and that remains the case.
“We’ve extended our termination date for ending the lease on the stadium until August, that’s our deadline. This aligns with Salford City FC’s vision given it takes around 12 months to plan for next season. It’s all going in the right direction but it’s a deal with a lot of parties involved and we have to get it right.
“In terms of the stadium name, we had a nine-year deal with AJ Bell. It’s been a fantastic partnership however we have to be aware of the value of our brand. The deal with AJ Bell was a deal with the stadium rather than with Sale Sharks. Whilst they have been a fantastic partner, the time has come to go in a different direction and for us to explore other options. We came to a mutual agreement.
“We absolutely believe that the club is now in a position to challenge for the top four every season. With the acquisition of the stadium with Salford City FC, we want to go out to the open market to find a partner for the stadium. It’s much more than just a chequebook moment.
“We’re currently going through the process of due diligence and talking to some partners who are interested in joining us. This has to be a partner who wants to work with us to create an enhanced fan experience. We want this to be a place where everyone can come and feel welcome and involved.
“It’s a massive honour to do this job; there’s never a dull day. It can feel relentless at times but I thoroughly enjoy the challenge.
“This season has been unpredictable at times and I’ve experienced the highs and lows just like you. The club is going in the right direction, on and off the field. We had our best ever attendance at the stadium for the Leicester game, this whilst on ITV, which shows our potential and what this club can do. Commercially, we’ve also evolved – through changing our culture and bringing in some market leading people.
“We’ve got a massive Champions Cup quarter final to look forward to against Racing 92, and the team is only going to get better. We’ve got some brilliant young players, complemented by some of the best players from around the world. We’re not done yet this season, and we’re still fighting for every point we can get.
“The future both in the immediate and longer term is hugely exciting for our club on and off the pitch and I want to extend my thanks to our vocal Sharks Family for supporting us all the way!”