Saints have no plans to play in Milton Keynes next season

Saints have played at Stadium MK on several occasions (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)Saints have played at Stadium MK on several occasions (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints have played at Stadium MK on several occasions (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Incoming Saints chairman John White has confirmed the club will not play any regular-season games in Milton Keynes next season.

Saints have played several matches at Stadium MK in a bid to garner extra income to boost their chances on the field.

They will be facing Saracens at the ground this season, with Jim Mallinder’s men taking on the Aviva Premiership champions on Sunday, April 16.

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But that will be the final Saints game in Milton Keynes for the foreseeable future with White, who will take over from Tony Hewitt this summer, stating his intentions to keep home matches in Northampton.

“Franklin’s Gardens is our home, and we’ve seen over the years how important it is to have a full stadium and a vibrant atmosphere to give the players the environment in which to thrive,” White said.

“We have a unique stadium that is the envy of all of the other Premiership clubs and many in Europe, too, and we have to capitalise on this in the future and retain home advantage.

“We will never say never in terms of moving games and this is not a reflection on Stadium MK as a venue, but for the foreseeable future we will be concentrating on bringing rugby supporters from across the region here to Northampton to get behind the Saints and join this great club.”

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Saints are also making moves to try to get as many home matches played on a Saturday at 3pm as possible.

The club have had an alarming number of Friday night games this season, with Premiership Rugby and BT Sport often scheduling them to play at times many supporters do not find favourable.

“Club rugby, especially in the Premiership, is changing rapidly, but this is a sport with some great traditions and here at the Saints we’re committed to having 3 o’clock on a Saturday as our preferred kick-off time and day,” White said.

“I think that everyone is well aware that Premiership Rugby and BT Sport have the final say on kick off times, but certainly in the first half of the current season there was no balance between Friday nights and Saturday afternoons for us at the Saints, which has caused a great deal of consternation among our season ticket holders.

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“I want to reassure them that we will be making the strongest possible representations to readdress that balance in the future.”

White, who played rugby both locally for Kettering and then at Franklin’s Gardens in the late-1970s before injury ended his career prematurely, has been a lifelong Saints supporter.

In his time as group chief executive of Persimmon Homes he was behind the company’s long-term Elite Sponsorship of the club, and joined the Saints’ board of directors in 2012 before stepping up to become deputy chairman in 2013.

And though he accepts Saints are facing some clear challenges, on and off the pitch, he feels the club is well placed to meet them, provided that everyone associated with the club works together.

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“On the pitch we are in a league where at least half the clubs have realistic ambitions of finishing in the top four,” White said.

“This means that we have to give the coaching staff everything they need to succeed, which in turns imposes financial pressures on the commercial side of the organisation.

“Our majority shareholders and senior directors may have invested £1 million of new money into the playing effort, but we remain a club which is simply not able to incur the same losses seen at many of our rivals elsewhere in the league.

“Having the backing of all our season ticket holders, supporters and sponsors is vital, and it’s always worth reminding everyone that every penny we make is reinvested back into the club.

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“None of the non-executive directors are paid for their time, and no one has taken a financial dividend since we became a plc some 17 years ago.

“We also want to be having a proactive and positive relationship with all our supporters, and over the next few weeks will be announcing new initiatives as part of our strategy to grow the club over the coming seasons.

“Everyone at Franklin’s Gardens is as desperate as all of our supporters to bring success back to the Saints.

“We’ve enjoyed winning the trophies and we want more of that in the future. But we all have to work together to achieve that, which means that we will enjoy it all the more!”