Rovers take on Salford Red Devils in floodlit fixture

Former Featherstone Rovers player Iestyn Harris is Salford's head coach.
Former Featherstone Rovers player Iestyn Harris is Salford's head coach.

Featherstone Rovers will host Super League big-spenders Salford Red Devils in a pre-season game at Big Fellas Stadium on Friday, January 23.

It will be the fifth of Featherstone’s warm up matches.

They host Castleford on December 28 and Hunslet are scheduled to visit Big Fellas Stadium on January 4. Rovers travel to Wakefield Wildcats on January 11 and they play Batley at Big Fellas Stadium on Sunday, January 18.

The Salford game will see the return of former Featherstone player Iestyn Harris, the Red Devils’ head coach.

Rovers chief executive Pat Cluskey said: “It will be under floodlights so it should be an excellent atmosphere. It’s Salford’s final pre-season game so one would expect them to have a full strength team out.

“We are looking to do something from a business perspective that night and bring potential sponsors to the game. We will be able to give them the opportunity to see what they are buying into.”

Rovers may have one of their new stands open for their opening pre-season match against Castleford.

“There’s nothing like a local derby over the festive period and it should be a great game,” added Mr Cluskey.

“It is possible we could have the smaller of the two new stands open for that match. We’ve still some work to finish on it and we need to get safety certificates etc.

“Nothing is set in stone and finance is a big thing at the end of the day because we’ve got to find the money to finish it. I have been talking to the volunteers who are working on the stands and the thinking is that the best approach could be to try to get one of the stands completed first.”

After the pre-season programme, Rovers start their Championship campaign with a home game againat Hunslet on February 15 and then visit Doncaster before hosting Bradford Bulls on March 1.

“I think there will be a fantastic atmosphere when we play Bradford at Big Fellas Stadium on March 1. I think it will get everyone’s imagination going and it should be a really big crowd,” said Mr Cluskey.

Rovers are now stepping up their efforts to maximise the use of their stadium facilities to bring in more revenue.

“There are only a limited number of match-days but we are a business that can open virtually 365 days a year,” he added.

“We are looking to put together a calendar next year so that from a supporters perspective we will have monthly player awards, quiz nights and cabaret style evenings.

“In the day time, we already have conferences, slimming world and toddler groups but we are also looking at other things.

“It may well be that not every business in Featherstone actually wants to support the rugby league club but we can offer some of the best facilities in the town for conferences and banqueting and it’s an indirect way of funding the team and that is what we are trying to expand.

“It would be great if we were in a position that the match day income is a bonus because we have so much off the field business.

“Some of the bigger clubs already do it. For example, Headingley is in constant use with all their facilities.

“We need to aspire to have a facility that is open seven days a week for a variety of reasons and not just for the rugby side of it.

“I’ve noticed how Rovers does impact on the community.

“We had 3,000 people turning up for the recent bonfire and if people come here for a bonfire we need to get them here for a rugby match, working with the Featherstone Rovers Foundation which is a brilliant organisation.”

Mr Cluskey said Rovers would ensure they had a plan in place and were ready for Super League if that opportunity came.

“We have a limited number of staff, supplemented by lots of volunteers, so we need to look at how we operate and how we can best make use of our resources at the moment and where we need to improve should we get there,” he said.

“We need to start plannning for that as soon as possible so that we have a plan in place. I think that’s something I’d like to be working on during the year apart from the day-to-to running so that if we get to Super League we know where we need to strength off the field facility wise.

“There would be lots of work to do but we’ve seem how the volunteers at the club have worked over the last few years. If work has be done to make sure we are up and running for the start of Super League in 2016 I think it would be done quite easily.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we have an important season to start off with.”