New Wakefield Trinity owner Matt Ellis opens up on what makes him tick as he taps into business success

It is 10 o’clock on a cold Monday morning at Belle Vue and there is excitement in Matt Ellis' voice as he talks shop.

He may be the proud new owner of Wakefield Trinity but his kitchen business is his bread and butter – and ultimately the vehicle that will take the fallen Super League club back to the top flight.

Eight weeks have passed since Ellis' takeover was ratified and the passionate Trinity supporter has not wasted a minute.

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He was making big decisions even before obtaining the keys for Belle Vue, namely sacking Mark Applegarth and replacing him with experienced head coach Daryl Powell.

It was an assertive first statement that reflected Ellis' personality as a successful businessman with a thirst for small wins that soon add up.

"I'm a competitive person," the millionaire owner of DIY Kitchens tells The Yorkshire Post.

"I'd be absolutely terrible being a house builder where you have a long project to earn money at the end of the year.

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"I need that day-to-day buzz. I could tell you how many season tickets we sold yesterday.

Matt Ellis is quickly making his mark at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)Matt Ellis is quickly making his mark at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)
Matt Ellis is quickly making his mark at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)

"The first thing I said we need at the club is a piece of software that runs the whole business.

"Yesterday, I would have checked my sales order panel for my kitchen business six or seven times.

"A lot of people go on Facebook when they wake up in the morning but I go to see if we've sold anything – and I might have only checked it at 9pm the previous night. That's my hobby and obsession.

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"If in 10 years' time we haven't been in a Grand Final or Challenge Cup final and have just become a top-six team, I'd be disappointed. When I go for it, I go for it."

Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)
Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)

Trinity's season ticket sales passed the 5,000 mark this week, thanks in no small part to the cheapest adult prices in rugby league with a monthly payment option and free junior add-ons.

Ellis has given Powell a sizeable £1.4million budget for the Championship, driven by a desire to get back to Super League the right way.

Once there, Ellis plans to spend the full salary cap and take advantage of the marquee exemptions.

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He has full autonomy at Belle Vue – and would not have it any other way.

The 2023 season was one to forget for Wakefield. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/ 2023 season was one to forget for Wakefield. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/
The 2023 season was one to forget for Wakefield. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/

"At the minute, I'm working on Wakefield Trinity stuff five or six hours a day and four or five hours working on the other side," says Ellis.

"The good thing about a sole ownership is you can just make decisions and don't have to run stuff through people. It's your money that's backing that decision so you live and die by it.

"My start point was coming up with a budget for the playing squad. We've got budgets for the Championship and Super League that I believe we need to be successful.

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"I've got to get the business side up to that. Our previous owner Michael (Carter) would say, 'If we get the business to this, we'll spend this', so it was always a 6,500 capacity to spend up to the salary cap.

"I'm more like, 'That's what we need if we're going to get to the top' and then it's for me to come up with ideas on how to get there. I'm an ideas person.

"I looked at the club previously when they were just bombing season tickets out at £250. It was pay up front just before Christmas and you wonder why season ticket sales are poor."

Jermaine McGillvary, right, has joined the Belle Vue revolution. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)Jermaine McGillvary, right, has joined the Belle Vue revolution. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)
Jermaine McGillvary, right, has joined the Belle Vue revolution. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)

Ellis is making a good fist of spinning plates thus far after waiting for the right time to commit to a club that has been in his heart since the late 1990s when he attended his first game at Oakwell in his native Barnsley, one of the areas he will look to tap into during a marketing campaign aimed at attracting new fans.

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While he is fully invested in the rebuild at Belle Vue, Ellis is conscious not to put the cart before the horse.

"I first talked to the club about a sponsorship deal four or five years ago," he recalls.

"I remember Michael messaging me at the time and I was trying to almost do the deal over the phone. He was asking me to come meet him and I had to tell him I was so busy that I couldn't.

"I was probably working 70-80 hours a week on it back then in 2019. Then in Covid when things were up in the air, we restructured and came out of it stronger.

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"Next year is a big year for the kitchen side because we're opening up new showrooms and a new factory.

"I'm never going to lose focus that the better that does, the better Wakefield Trinity do as well.

"That new factory will allow us to nearly double the amount of kitchens we sell. If we sell 550 kitchens a week now, we'll look to double that.”

Ellis is sat in the hospitality box he occupied as a fan during a miserable 2023 campaign for Wakefield that ended in relegation.

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The delayed completion of the new East Stand is a source of frustration but the overrun is not going to stop Ellis from coming up with other ways to improve Belle Vue.

As well as increasing the capacity of the recently redeveloped North Stand, Ellis is thinking outside the box as he works with architects on the Western Terrace.

"I went up on the Sky Sports gantry when I first took over the club and it's a fantastic view from up there," he says.

"I want to do something really interesting there where we get a roof on the Western Terrace and have rooftop terrace viewing that runs the full length of the pitch and is a bit unique.

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"I feel this hospitality view is very unique in the game – to be this high and this close to the game. Even next year, I'm still going to view the games from up here."

Ellis has armed Powell with a squad capable of winning the Championship this season but the introduction of a new grading system means nothing can be left to chance.

While Wakefield continue to strive for improvements across the five pillars – on-field performance, fandom, finances, stadium and community – their initial ranking of 11th is fuelling the belief that their second-tier stay will be a short one.

"With the new stand coming in and the owner investment score going up, we will score better next year than we have this year," says Ellis.

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"If we're 11th this year, our score next year should put us nearer Huddersfield and Salford, if not higher.

"We're going to be a Super League club in 2025. One of the key things for me was not to have IMG as the thing that was going to get us back there.

"We could have relied on the new stand and spent £700-800,000 on the wage bill but that doesn't build the rapport back with the supporters.

"If we lost by a point here in the Grand Final at the end of the season and won every other game, I'd still be disappointed that we didn't do it the right way."

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Whereas promotion hopefuls would previously know their fate upon hearing the final hooter in the Championship decider, clubs face an anxious wait next year as IMG tots up their scores.

Confidence is one thing but uncertainty is sure to reign at the business end of the 2024 season.

"There's a clear scoring grid and I've spent quite a bit of time looking through that," adds Ellis. "I can see that we'll get 0.5 more points for this and another point for that.

"But bar the grade A clubs, there's always going to be a little bit of nervousness. Everybody who isn't in the top six or seven now are going to be a bit nervous.

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"We want to get up towards 14 points. There are ways of getting there with the owner investment and the new stand.

"If 12.52 gets you in next year, we'll be in. If 13 gets you in next year, we'll be in.

"The unknown is you don't know what everyone else's score is."

Wakefield are stepping into the unknown with hope after years of fighting fires at the bottom of Super League.

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Ellis has set about rebuilding the relationship between the club and their supporters but knows nothing beats on-field success.

"Last weekend was another buzz weekend when the odds came out for the new season," he says with excitement.

"We are heavy favourites which is nice to see. There's a bit of pressure on us but we're all embracing it.

"Next year is about putting smiles back on faces. We're ready for it.

"We know we've got a big job on our hands because if you underestimate the Championship, you will get found out.

"Let's rebuild, enjoy it and get the fans back onside by winning again."

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