Koukash has grounds for optimism
18th January 2013
Marwan Koukash is confident of bringing lasting success to Salford City Reds but admits the key is gaining control of the £26million stadium at Barton.
The Kuwait-born multi-millionaire businessman, who is a St Helens-based racehorse owner, outlined his ambitious plans to transform the City Reds’ fortunes after watching them for the first time in last night’s pre-season friendly against Wigan Warriors.
Koukash, who expects to complete his takeover by Monday, says he had been looking to become involved with a Super League club after having his appetite whetted watching Saints at Langtree Park last season and was delighted to receive an SOS from the Rugby Football League’s chief executive Nigel Wood.
“I got hooked on rugby by watching my local team, St Helens, on a couple of occasions,” the 54-year-old said.
“It’s a lovely sport to be involved in and I hope it has the same kind of success racing gave me.
“I have been looking to get involved with a club and, when the opportunity came along, Nigel Wood introduced Salford to me - and I’m very glad to be involved.”
Only last week Salford avoided a winding-up petition over unpaid bills amounting to around £400,000 but today the club’s future suddenly looks bright.
Koukash has pledged funds for coach Phil Veivers to bring in new players in time for the opening match of the new Super League season in a fortnight’s time and to spend up to the £1.65million salary cap.
“I’m not a sugar daddy but I’m somebody who will facilitate that,” said Koukash, who has a string of property developments and a stable of more than 100 racehorses.
“Saving the Reds is not a big deal, the bigger deal is creating a team that could compete and win trophies for a number of years to come.”
Salford drew a disappointing average crowd of 5,192 in their first season at the City of Salford Stadium in 2012 but Koukash believes a winning team could attract regular five-figure attendances within four years.
But he warns the club would need to maximise its earning potential to become successful and he is hoping to buy the stadium and surrounding land - or at least a major stake in it - from Salford Council and Peel Holdings.
“The problem Salford face is that it has no home,” Koukash added. “It’s a tenant in a stadium. It has to train miles away from where it plays and the income it generates is far less than the expenditure.
“Salford must look at ways of creating extra income from commercial ventures.
“Here around this stadium there are many opportunities to develop such ventures and part of the deal we’re looking at is for Salford to have a share or an interest in the stadium as well as to be able to develop some of the surrounding land.
“We’ve talked about things like a high-performance gym and a hostel for the academy players. That’s why the deal is taking longer to arrange than expected.
“I’d like to have the security of the deal on the stadium and some kind of development.”
The City Reds currently share the stadium with Aviva Premiership club Sale Sharks, who have a 20-year lease.
Koukash has brought in former New Zealand chairman Andrew Chalmers to help smooth the transition.
“My role is to assist Marwan in putting together a team to complete the due diligence and help facilitate the completion of the purchase of the club,” Chalmers said.
Koukash has also enlisted the help of former Wigan and New Zealand coach Graham Lowe to work with Veivers on player recruitment and turning around the team’s fortunes after they finished 11th last season.
Lowe flew over from New Zealand this week and says he is prepared to stay on for as long as it takes to see the job through.
“I’ll take whatever role is needed,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a terrific career in rugby league and the north of England, particularly Wigan down the road, played a major part in that.
“I do see it as my responsibility to help this club and put something back.
“The first thing to do is introduce an attitude that doesn’t accept mediocrity, that is challenging itself continually. You need that before you need players.
“We would like to get a lot of international players, just like that, but we have a long-term vision and it’s got to start with attitude. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to do that.”