IT is dubbed the Million Pound Game, but Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ chairman Michael Carter says today’s crucial showdown with Bradford Bulls will cost his club almost double that if they do suffer the dreaded relegation.
Of course, the Two Million Pound Game does not quite have the same ring for marketing purposes as everyone prepares for arguably the biggest 80 minutes of the season so far.
It is certainly one of the most important fixtures in Wakefield’s 142-year history as Trinity, who finished bottom in Super League with just three wins, host their West Yorkshire rivals in a sudden-death battle for the 12th and last remaining top-flight spot in 2016.
Granted, three-times World Club champions Bradford – who came fifth to Wildcats’ fourth in the Qualifiers – will have something to say about the matter.
They are desperate to earn an immediate return to the elite after spending a sobering first campaign in the second tier for more than four decades.
However, ahead of this inaugural showpiece, designed as part of the Super 8s format to maintain interest in the competition throughout, most pressure is on Wakefield who many feel will struggle to recover if they do lose.
Carter says they are preparing for every eventuality and remains confident they will avoid defeat.
But he is acutely aware of the financial implications involved.
“The nerves are pretty good actually,” he said. “I was playing golf at Garry Schofield’s testimonial on Thursday and out of the office.
“Ticket sales have gone well, (head coach) Brian (Smith) is buzzing as are the lads, and everything’s pretty decent. But when you look at the money involved, we know what it will mean.
“In central funding alone you are looking at a fall of around £800,000 and then gate receipts – with the best will in the world, Batley won’t bring many – would drop by about £400,000.
“With secondary spends, too, you are probably looking nearer two million than one.
“Obviously, there’s cost-savings at the same time – if you were in the Championship you wouldn’t spend £1.6m on your squad unless you are (Leigh Centurions owner) Derek Beaumont, as you can only spend £1m.
“But everyone wants to be in Super League regardless of the money; we all want to be at this top table of 12 and I’m no different.”
Today’s gargantuan fixture, expected to be played out in front of a sold-out 7,500 capacity at Belle Vue, sees livelihoods at stake with everyone at both clubs wondering what the future will hold if the result goes against them.
Wakefield could, theoretically, immediately lose all their players who are on Super League contracts, and office and administration staff could also see their jobs under threat.
Carter admitted: “It wouldn’t be a pleasant few days. It’s something I’ve thought about over the last few weeks, but I’m not going to dwell on it. We’ll worry about it if it happens but hopefully things will be okay. I’m confident we’re good enough on Saturday and we’ll have 17 players capable of doing the job.
“I went to watch a Championship game about three weeks ago – I won’t say which team – came home and said ‘I can’t go through a year of that’.
“It might just have been a really poor match but, although we have taken some real hammerings this year, we do all still want to be in Super League.”
Asked if Trinity’s playing squad would remain full-time if they did go down, as Bradford’s did 12 months ago, Carter said: “A lot would depend on how season-ticket sales went and whether fans bought into that. If you sold enough, that would give you the opportunity to remain full-time but, if not, we might have to go down the part-time route.
“It would probably take a couple of weeks to make those sorts of decisions and it would be up to us hopefully to come up with the best decisions to take the club forward and able to bounce straight back. But, again, I’m hoping I won’t have to contend with any of this.”
Hull-born Carter took over from Andrew Glover as club chairman in August 2013 having been a shareholder for 18 months before that.
Wakefield have endured turbulent times in the recent past, entering administration in 2011 and only avoiding losing their Super League licence that year due to the Crusaders’ sudden decision to withdraw from the competition.But Carter has helped steady the ship at a club that has been in Super League since 1999, including securing a better deal for their rental of Belle Vue next season and he says they will be debt free by the end of December.
Match previews: Page 6.