New owners for Oldham Rugby League Club

The following statements have been published on the Oldham RL website:

OLDHAM RLFC is delighted to announce that a group led by former player and coach Mike Ford and local businessman Mick Harrington has successfully purchased the club.

The recently-announced return of Oldham RLFC to Boundary Park was a key part of the acquisition strategy and, following detailed discussions, we are pleased to have secured a long-term agreement. This will allow the club to lay down roots as well as allowing access to crucial revenue streams as it looks to build an exciting long-term future.

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The new owners left to right: Mick Harrington, Gary Kershaw, Simon Winnard, (coach) Stuart Littler, Mike Ford, Haydn Walker.

The club would like to place on record its appreciation of the fantastic support given to us by the Rothwell family, Oldham Athletic board and Oldham Council during this whole process.

Today marks the culmination of a years’ worth of discussions and meticulous planning. It is also the start of a new journey for Oldham RLFC. Reflecting on that journey,

Mike Ford said:

“We are really excited about the future of the Roughyeds. It’s close to all our hearts and we know the importance of a vibrant, thriving Oldham Rugby to the town and its people.

“We certainly don’t take our responsibility as club custodians lightly and it’s our vision to give the people of Oldham a rugby league club they can be proud of. A club that they are excited and inspired by and one that they can identify with. We cannot wait to get started.”

Mick Harrington, a lifelong Oldham Rugby fan from Delph whose grandfather played for the club in the 1960s, added:

“This is a historic day for an historic club. We do not want to get ahead of ourselves and we know there is a lot of hard work ahead – but we feel that we can do something special here. Oldham remains a rugby league hotbed and we believe the potential – especially with Boundary Park now as our home – is huge.”

Gary Kershaw, a fellow lifelong Oldham Rugby fan from Denshaw who will join the board, said:

“I think this is absolutely brilliant for the town. I just want to help to get Oldham Rugby back to where it should be. If all the kids from Oldham who have played in Super League had played for Oldham we’d have won three Grand Finals.’

Gary added:

“You support the team where you’re from – it has a place in you heart and I want to give something back.”

Today’s announcement comes at a time when the whole sport is going through a significant period of change. The RFL partnership with IMG hails the start of an exciting time for the game and we believe for Oldham RLFC.

It is clear that off-the-field performance will become an increasingly important success factor and the club is committed to developing a winning team both on and off the field.

Oldham RLFC also believes that supporter engagement and involvement is critical. To our fans: we cannot do this without you. The club is committed to working hand-in-hand and transparently with you.

We also hope to see as many as you as possible at the Good Friday game against Rochdale. Great Friday — as we have called it — marks the start of a new era for this 147-year-old institution and we want you to celebrate a momentous day with us.

We know there are many lapsed supporters in the town. We want you — and your families — back. We want to create new generations of Roughyeds fans. We cannot bring back Watersheddings but we can bring back that Watersheddings spirit. The hard work starts now.

The new board is fully supportive of the current coaching staff and playing squad. We look forward to working with Stuart Littler, Brendan Sheridan, the players and other staff — including our amazing supporter volunteers who are the lifeblood of this club.

Over the coming weeks, the club will be finding its feet and formulating a new management structure. As soon as possible, we will then hold an open public forum. Fans will be invited to meet with the new board of directors and the coaching team, where they will be able to hear more about the club’s vision and plans for the current season and beyond.

Finally, we would also like to thank former owner Chris Hamilton for all his cooperation throughout the acquisition process and for his efforts over the last 25 years.

In a prepared statement, Chris Hamilton said:

“So, my time as owner of Oldham Rugby League Football Club has come to an end. That is probably a sentence I never envisaged I would write given how long I have been involved with the club!

“When I started on this journey 25 and a half years ago, little did I know that it would take over my life and that everything I did would revolve around this club.

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Chris Hamilton

“Everybody knows that this has not been a journey full of glory, or of continued success but it has certainly been an eventful one for sure.

“In 1997 I was one of four people who wanted to make sure that professional rugby league in Oldham carried on. Of course, for quite a long time now I have been the only one of those four who was still in place.

“As I think about my time at the club there has been an incredible amount of hard work by a number of people to ensure we still have a club today. I wish to thank everybody who has helped to keep the club going.

“In addition, it would be wrong not to thank all those people and clubs who have helped us by providing grounds for the club to play at since 1997, particularly Stalybridge Celtic when we have been in the Championship and, our current hosts AVRO FC.

“Of course, we have achieved much more than simply maintaining a club. Our promotions to the Championship, the number of Grand Finals we have played in, being one match away from Super League. The list could go on and on.

“However, this is a time for looking forward also. With the new owners coming in, the recently announced move back to Boundary Park, the potential for major development at Melrose Playing Fields, then it is not too hard to think that the club is gaining some traction in moving forward.

“I sincerely wish my successors all the very best in their efforts with the club and hope that all of this positivity currently surrounding the club is rewarded with increased numbers at games to back Stuart Littler, Brendan Sheridan and all the squad as they strive to gain promotion back to the Championship this year. Now wouldn’t that be fantastic — first game back at Boundary Park being a game in the Championship!

“I could go on for a long time in this final statement, but it has all been a bit of a whirlwind and the focus must remain on the team and the upcoming match at North Wales Crusaders this Sunday.

“As for me, I hope to be there, cheering the lads on. I will do whatever I can to help the new owner in the transition at the club and will be looking for a new job too — now that will be strange!’

The Oldham RL Heritage Trust would like to echo the above sentiments in thanking Chris Hamilton for all his efforts over the last 25 years and likewise wish every success to the new consortium.