Gareth Ellis: Future looks brighter for Widnes after hitting rock bottom

I am really pleased that a club like Widnes Vikings, with so much history and tradition, has been saved, but how long will things like this keep happening to rugby league clubs?

Hull FC's Gareth Ellis in action on his return from retirement.
Hull FC's Gareth Ellis in action on his return from retirement.

I remember one of my first games as a kid was going to watch them beat Canberra Raiders in that 1989 World Club Challenge and we know what a really successful club it has been.

So it has been really sad to see them in the sorry state of administration recently.

It highlights sometimes just where we are as a game and does so in the worst possible way really; peoples’ jobs are on the line – some have lost theirs already and some are probably still on the line given the cost-cutting measures that are likely to take place in the next few weeks as the club look to balance the books.

It’s not an ideal scenario for anyone and am I right in saying that this has happened a little too often in the past with other clubs suffering the same fate or coming close to it, at least?

It’s not where we want any club to be; we want a strong side on the field, but we want to see clubs with a strong business background as well and run in the right way.

We want to see clubs being well-supported and not just being propped up by the product on the field; we have to realise a lot goes into modern sport these days and they have to be run as a business and be successful in that side of things also.

As the governing body, the Rugby Football League have a level of responsibility to make sure that the people who take over the clubs are fit and proper and due diligence is put in place.

But when clubs are desperate they want them to survive so when people come wanting to take these sorts of clubs over you can understand why they want to help them do that.

I’m sure the people that have come in for Widnes now will have had all the approval and ticked all the right boxes to take them on to what hopefully, all being well, is the start of a new, bright chapter.

Sometimes you need to be rock bottom before you can start moving up again. I think a lot of people associated with Widnes will say they were at rock bottom and had seen this coming for some time, but hopefully now they can start building again.

That was certainly a great start yesterday as they beat Featherstone in front of nearly 6,000 fans.

While that was happening, there was a real shock, too, with London Broncos beating Wigan Warriors.

I say shock, but it won’t have been to London. At the beginning of the year lots of people were saying how they had largely the same squad that got them out of the Championship and they’d struggle back in Super League, but they always remained confident especially at their own ground. They’re only five games in and they have two wins already, both coming at Ealing.

I don’t think teams take them lightly, but it’s been a few years since clubs have had to travel down to London and now – with so many chartering flights to Perpignan, going there and back in a day – it is probably a longer trip than Catalans.

With their 3G pitch, too, which is a bit different to other teams, I think they may feel they can catch some teams out and it’s proved the case with Wigan going the way of Wakefield.

It’s great to see them making such an impact and others have clearly now been warned.