A Christmas message from Saracens CEO Lucy Wray
At the start of 2021, there was still a huge amount of uncertainty surrounding the start of The Championship. Wow there are some good people at those Championship clubs who care deeply about the game of rugby and worked tirelessly to make sure there was a competition.
There are four things that stick out for me about The Championship season. A gentleman called Stephen Thomas sadly passed away a very short time ago. Stephen is a former director of the club and has been at every single Saracens match (home and away) for as long as I can remember. He has always been a huge support to myself and he adored Saracens. When the games were all behind closed doors, Stephen was able to attend the matches as one of the five directors who were allowed to go. He drove to Cornish Pirates away on his own! I was lucky enough to spend time with him at these matches and I am so grateful for it. He will be hugely missed and our thoughts are with his family.
The second thing I will never forget is the return of fans! Only 1,000 to start with but it gave me goosebumps to hear all the voices again and to see so many happy faces. What a reminder about the true essence of sport - a shared experience.
Thirdly, the first play-off match away at Ealing. Throughout the campaign I was always so hugely impressed with how calm our coaching and performance team were. Nothing rattled them. They prepared immaculately. The players more than delivered that day and showed their class. The sheer joy and relief was immense and every hug post-match summed up the journey we had all been on.
Lastly, after lifting The Championship trophy and securing our return to the Premiership, I will always remember the team photo on the pitch with the whole squad (because it is never just 23 players) and so many kids in the photo, all running in different directions. That is what we are… a family.
As an organisation, we talk a lot about TSPDS. The S**t People Don’t See. This year more than any other TSPDS has been unbelievably important. Here are just a few examples from off the pitch… Our team manager Warrick Lang has spent approximately 10+ hours a week doing Covid testing at the training ground. Alex MacIntyre, Sam, Lauren and Aaron have worked relentlessly to assist and care for the NHS on site with the mass vaccination centre, kept the West Stand project on course (with Deborah at the helm) and more recently somehow get a 20,000 litre water truck on site and extra toilets with two hours’ notice to allow the game against Edinburgh to go ahead. Our wonderful Pioneers who blow me away with their kindness and regularly go above and beyond to help people on a match day and welcome everyone to StoneX Stadium with a big smile. Lastly, a special mention to Simon and the SRM security team at the stadium who are most definitely the nicest security team I have ever encountered.
Our women’s team were on course to retain their Premier 15s title for a third successive year but came up against a very talented and determined Harlequins side who we succumbed to in the final. We have had some brilliant encounters with Harlequins over the years and will continue to enjoy going head-to-head. The disappointment of the final and the result last week has taught us valuable lessons and pushed us to continue to improve and look at how we can invest in our infrastructure and remain at the forefront of women’s rugby. I will always remember Sonia Green saying to Ben Earl: “Ben, when you played behind closed doors, that is how I have played the majority of my career. You have no idea how much it means to us to have a crowd.” Let’s make sure we support our women’s team more than ever in 2022 as they battle for another title.
2022 will bring us a big Saracens Mavericks season and this could be a great year for them… Continuity within the squad with a couple of extremely talented new players joining us. If you have never watched a live netball game, do it. Unbelievable athletes.
Our Foundation continue to inspire. Jackson Wray and Sean Maitland have been down to Monday night disABILITY rugby sessions regularly this year and I loved seeing the kids idolising them and clearly being inspired by their involvement . In addition, Saracens Foundation’s focus on Women & Girls sport was recognised by World Rugby. Widening societal gaps in sport have been amplified due to COVID-19. Gender inequalities such as low female participation levels and less media coverage, are some of the issues which have been highlighted within female sport at community to elite levels. Our Foundation recognised the unique position that Saracens are in having two elite female sports teams in Saracens Women’s Rugby and Saracens Mavericks Netball, and the platform we have created to take positive action to address gender inequalities in a way which could really have an impact on the wider female sporting landscape at community and elite levels. The Saracens Women & Girls Steering Group was formed in February 2021 to support the development of meaningful projects for our communities which will enrich the lives of females within sport and deliver long lasting impacts. World Rugby reported on the steering groups progress in a news article released on 29th March 2021 entitled: “How Saracens are helping to change the landscape of women’s sport | World Rugby”.
The Saracens High School is in a new building and it is magnificent. Every single Saracens fan should feel so proud of our school and the role it is playing to help regenerate one of the most disadvantaged communities in north London. The new building will be officially opened sometime in the new year so watch this space.
It is great to report that the West Stand project at StoneX Stadium continued throughout 2021 and remained on time and on budget, quite an achievement considering the industry specific challenges experienced throughout this period. We can be thankful for having an outstanding Project Director and Project Team who know the site and the organisation exceptionally well. We can also be thankful for the continued support and positive partnership approach of both Barnet Council and Middlesex University. Both parties are, like us committed not only to the delivery of an outstanding new facility in the shape of the West Stand, but to the further development of the broader Copthall site as a hub site for elite and community sport, recreation, health promotion and education.
Friendships and community have been so unbelievably important to this club over the past two years. The Sarries Family has dug deep, been tested and pulled together like never before. The power of a community all pulling in the same direction is quite remarkable. There may be some more bumpy times ahead but I know we’ll stick together and come out fighting like we always do.
We know that we need to keep improving in many areas and we are listening to our fans so please keep talking to us. We love your engagement and how much you care.
We are committed to keep pursuing excellence in every area of the organisation to go some way to repaying the loyalty of the Saracens family. Furthermore, on the pitch and off the pitch, we will continue to build a club that everyone inside the Saracens Family can be proud of. I have said this before but will say it again, we have unbelievably good people who care passionately about Saracens and we remain as fiercely ambitious as always for 2022 and beyond.
I hope everyone can enjoy the Festive Season with friends and loved ones and we can’t wait to have as many of you as possible back at StoneX Stadium on Boxing Day.